Dan Meinhardt – Gone West (2012)

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I’ve found that young jazz musicians — the more ambitious ones, at least — like to hit the ground running and start establishing their foothold in the jazz world as soon as they’re wrapping up their advanced studies at some good graduate college music program. That usually results in some fresh-sounding records full of promise and energy. Occasionally, like Kait Dunton’s first album, it can be astonishingly good.

Dan Meinhardt is a guy who just earned his Masters of Music in Jazz Studies from the University of Oregon, and concurrent with his graduation last June, he introduced his debut album Gone West. It’s exactly one of those kind of records you get from someone who is flush with ideas inspired by studying under jazz masters, and eager to put them to work.

For his first impression as a recording artist, Meinhardt strikes the right balance between composition and improvisation, traditional jazz and modern sensibilities. A tenor saxophonist with a great, classic tone and a “less is more” maturity, Meinhardt surrounded himself with other young, talented musicians from the Northwest, San Francisco and his current hometown of Chicago. There are several sides to this musician, and they’re all intriguing: “Crooked” takes a drums ‘n’ bass approach to heady fusion, while “Wound Tight” is an updated hybrid of Coltrane’s “Countdown” and the skunk funk of the Brecker Brothers. Elsewhere, Meinhardt and his band, in varying quartet, quintet and sextet configurations, get it done with more traditional instrumentation.

If there’s a unifying aspect to this set of music, it’s got to be Meinhardt advanced facility for composition. His songs go effortlessly between minor and major keys, and they patiently unfold, the best example of this being the title track (Soundcloud below). There’s even some classical finesse in several of his tracks, such as “Beneath the Grey Shield,” and the through-composed tune, “New Rain.” These are melodies you want to pay close attention to, because the rewards from doing so are often great.

An album focused on a single style or theme can wait. Gone West is Dan Meinhardt’s calling card, and leaves a strong impression that whatever direction he takes from here, he’s likely to be successful at it.

Purchase Dan Meinhardt’s Gone West from Bandcamp.

Visit Dan’s website for more info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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