Creeping out of the silence with a hesitant sonic slither, “Not Knowing” is waiting for anyone brave enough to enter its groove-packed gateway into Dan Engelhardt’s new instrumental LP Here at Last, and in the next few minutes that follow, the track will set the stage for everything soon to pass in the next thirteen songs. Along with its neighbor, the enigmatic jazz symphony “A Spirited Life,” “Not Knowing” drops the chills on us right out of the gate in Here at Last, and makes it abundantly clear to all within earshot that if they can’t stand the heat coming out of their headphones, they’ll need to take a step back now – for it only gets more intense from here on out.
“Far Away” continues the stomp of the introduction with a pulse-raising beat and forceful fretting that collides together in a captivating hurricane of harmonies, and though this track isn’t as bludgeoning as the heavy “Spiritual Awakening” is, let’s be honest, very few songs ever could be. “Spiritual Awakening” is a hefty helping of old-fashioned heavy jazz prowess, but it doesn’t weigh down the midsection of Here at Last with a lot of overblown solos that wouldn’t serve the flow of the record well at all. Just like the ensuing 80’s fusion throwback “Hymn to Florencia,” this song is nothing if it isn’t to the point and arranged for speed and comfort of both regular jazz fans and passersby who just want something to chill out to this autumn. Whether you’re a serious listener or just a casual passerby, you can count on there being something for you to get lost in with this record’s bounty of tracks.
Dan Engelhardt changes it up with some exotically stylized action in “Missing You” and the retro swinger “Db Samba,” but by the time we swing back into the clutches of “Minor Third Bird,” the jazzy grind is once again in full force and dragging us asunder into a devil’s playground of bold beats rooted both in fusion’s constant rebelliousness and jazz’s unabashed machismo. If the goal here was to finish even stronger than he started, Engelhardt scored a slam dunk with the construction of this tracklist, which seems to get even more entrancing with every listening session I spend with it.
Here at Last concludes with a cerebral and stimulating song in its closing track that simultaneously brings us full circle to where we once started from while courageously looking ahead into what could be a sophomore effort from Dan Engelhardt, and though I’ve listened to it a few different times, it’s another tune that feels even more suffocating every time I hear its mighty melodies intertwine with one another. I’ve never been much for instrumental albums in the past, but Engelhardt’s new record is too difficult to dismiss as anything other than a wonderful set of songs that feels perfect for the eclectic aesthetic jazz has been joyously embracing at the moment. We’ll soon know for sure, but my gut tells me this won’t be the only hit this acclaimed musician releases in his solo career.