If there’s a unifying aspect to this set of music, it’s got to be Meinhardt advanced facility for composition...they patiently unfold [and] there’s even some classical finesse in several of his tracks. These are melodies you want to pay close attention to, because the rewards from doing so are often great.
-S. Victor Aaron, Something Else! Reviews
One snowy December night in 2012, an intimate audience gathered to hear the newest voice on the Chicago jazz scene. Rejecting conventional ideas of instrumentation, the works played that night were bold in their use of space and time, encouraging every member of the ensemble to contribute in new and innovative ways. Drums were a melodic instrument; saxophone and trumpet traded accompaniment with the bass. There was no keyboard, no guitar: no comping instrument of any kind. Yet, far from being sparse, the tunes sounded lush and full, the players like varying parts of a well-oiled machine. This was Outset, and the mastermind behind the music was saxophonist Dan Meinhardt.
Fresh out of a Master’s program in Jazz Studies at the University of Oregon, Meinhardt moved to Chicago in the fall of 2012, eager to organize a band to play his music and make a mark on his new home. Bassist Tim Ipsen (Justefan, Tom Matta, The Cooke Book) and drummer Andrew Green (Jonas Friddle, Twin Talk, Paul Dietrich) were obvious collaborators – Meinhardt had met Green when they were undergrads at Lawrence University. Ipsen and Meinhardt grew up in Kenosha, WI (meeting in kindergarten), and traveled frequently to Chicago to comb through the stacks at the Jazz Record Mart and check out the scene they knew they’d join someday. It was an easy decision to invite Ipsen and Green to join the group, both because of their commensurate musicianship and, Meinhardt notes sheepishly, because they were “basically the only guys [he] knew in town at the time.”
But Meinhardt wasn’t a stranger for long. He soon established himself as a capable instrumentalist, collaborating with creative bands like the Carl Kennedy Large Ensemble and the Michael Nearpass group, as well as dance and theater companies and the Chicago Children’s Choir. Praised for his “great, classic tone and less-is-more maturity,” (Something Else! Reviews) Meinhardt kept his ears open, drawing inspiration from musicians in the city’s thriving jazz scene. One of these musicians was Justin Copeland (Gustavo Cortiñas, Clif Wallace, Fatbook), an amiable trumpeter originally from Fresno, CA. The two played together sporadically around the city, always enjoying the collaboration, until one night in September 2013, when Meinhardt’s usual trumpeter, Marquis Hill, couldn’t make a gig. Copeland stepped in, and has been the group’s trumpeter ever since.
One of the greatest challenges of Meinhardt’s compositions for Outset is the absence of a comping instrument. Without a piano or guitar in Outset’s mix, the other players have to pick up the slack, trading musical roles more frequently than normal. Ipsen and Green rise admirably to the challenge, trading their traditionally accompanying roles for more melodic or textural ones as the musical calls for it. These shifting roles lead to the raw sonic honesty that makes Outset so unique. Every voice contributes, and the compositions flow like good conversation over dinner. Outset is unapologetically individual, and after workshopping the pieces over several years, Meinhardt was ready to go into the studio. Working with producer Chad McCullough (Spin Quartet, Tunnel Six, Bram Weijters) in a Wicker Park art loft, Outset recorded their self-titled debut album over two days in August 2015, later signing with ears&eyes Records. The label, based in Chicago, is known for discovering innovative new voices in jazz. Meinhardt and Outset fit right in; their bold, intoxicating sound shines through their debut, establishing them as a group to watch in the years to come.
Musicians in Outset
Justin Copeland is a trumpet player, pianist, educator and composer based out of the central valley city of Fresno, California. Justin completed a M.M. in Jazz Studies at Northwestern University in June 2013. He has performed with Victor Goines, Brad Mason, Christopher Madsen, Sherman Irby, Elliot Mason, and Rufus Reid. In addition to performing with Outset, Justin regularly tours and recorded with Gustavo Cortiñas, Clif Wallace, and Fatbook. Justin is currently pursuing his D.M.A. in jazz studies at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
Tim Ipsen grew up in Kenosha, WI. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Instrumental Performance/Jazz Studies from Columbia College of Chicago. He has collaborated on performances with such artists and groups as Von Freeman, Chicago Jazz Ensemble, Cedar Walton, Terrence Blanchard, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, and Billy Childs. In addition to Outset, he regularly performs with and has recorded with the Paul Dietrich Quintet and the Jamie Breiwick Spirits Quartet.
A versatile drummer and percussionist, Andrew Green is a highly sought-after sideman in many of Chicago's creative music projects. Originally from Washington, DC, Andrew moved to the Midwest to study Music Performance at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. In addition to performing with Outset, Andrew also performs with Twin Talk, Paul Dietrich, Abigail Riccards, Jamie Breiwick’s Spirits Quartet, Katie Ernst’s Little Words, Brazilian samba group Bloco Maximo, and the orchestral folk group Jonas Friddle & the Majority which was the grand-prize winner of the 2012 John Lennon Songwriting Award.