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Album Review

Elan Mehler: There Is A Dance


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Elan Mehler: There Is A Dance
David Bowie's album The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (RCA, 1972) includes instructions on the back: "To Be Played At Maximum Volume." Had pianist Elan Mehler's new trio effort, There is a Dance, followed suit, the slogan would be something like "To Be Played Only on Rainy Afternoons." There is a Dance, which celebrates memories of Mehler's mother, is a quiet, meditative album, one more drawn to rubato than momentum. There are moments of undeniable beauty here, but the relentlessly inward focus can get a bit repetitive, especially on side A.

"Side A?" you ask. Indeed, There is a Dance is not just a recording, it is a record. Mehler's had led ten previous recordings, but he is perhaps best known at this point as co-owner and founder of Newvelle Records, a high-end subscription service that releases new jazz on pristine vinyl. Newvelle typically releases six albums each year as part of a "season," but they've also undertaken additional series. In this case, Mehler's album is the first installment of Newvelle Record's four part "Renewal Collection."

There is a whole lot of jazz coming out on vinyl in 2022, much of it either reissues of old favorites or new issues by big companies with bulging promotional budgets. In most cases, the music is available in several other formats, particularly that ethereal favorite of current listeners, streaming. Newvelle is unusual in that it's a vinyl-only operation, putting out brand new music available nowhere else. It offers a premium experience, with carefully pressed discs in gatefold covers and beautiful sonics. It also charges premium prices. The Newvelle discs cost more than most vinyl, including some two-disc 45 rpm issues, though not as much as Mobile Fidelity one-steps or, heaven help us, Electric Recording Company issues (ask your accountant or divorce attorney if ERC is right for you).

Vinyl demands commitment—money, shelf space, time in front of a stereo that could be spent on a dozen entertainment alternatives. In general, it's nice to know you're going to like before you buy. Unless dropping that kind of money on vinyl is a trivial expenditure (and it is for some of us), Newvelle is asking for a fair amount of trust. They've recorded some well-known artists (Bill Frisell, Jack DeJohnette, and Lionel Loueke, among others), but many releases feature lesser known, if worthy, players. The cost is understandable— they are a small operation putting out new music in a niche genre on a finicky format. Whether the value proposition works is up to buyer to decide.

Enough of Mehler the label guru. Mehler the pianist generally builds his songs out of melodic fragments—more moods than tunes— but there are exceptions. "When You Were Blind" offers a gentle gospel feel with a recognizable melody, while "The Shakes" changes pace with the most outward bound and unfettered playing of the session. These songs provide welcome jolts of energy in the otherwise pervading hush. Mehler has no interest in pyrotechnics, and his bandmates are tasteful and deferential. Don't come to this record expecting to be dazzled, but you might well be moved.

All that said, There is a Dance sounds fantastic on a Mobile Fidelity set up (Ultra Deck—meet Master Tracker!), and no doubt would sound even better on a turntable costing more than a car—or house. Quality control is certainly spot-on for the pressing received, and one can't always say that about releases by much bigger companies. And there's no question this is a project from the heart, as Mehler pays tribute to a loved and departed parent. Not the music for every occasion, but perfect for a rainy afternoon.

Track Listing

There is a Dance; We Spin; Ruby O; When You Were Blind; We Breathe; We Hope; The Shakes; Murray Park; East Side Blues; Then You.


Album information

Title: There Is A Dance | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Newvelle Records

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