Welcome aboard the music train! There’ll be a few unscheduled stops but the Krebinetter is piping hot and the Tuborg is taste-bud-numbingly coooool… Unscheduled stops, indeed – the first time I heard this album was on Spotify and I assumed it had accidentally been set to random, or my guileless (?!) daughter was uncharacteristically (?!) messing about with the app, such was the variety of sound coming out of the speakers.
Carsten Meinert was a Danish tenor-playing, composer and bandleader. Prior to this 1969 album, his quartet had, in ‘68, released the beautifully rendered, Trane-adoring “To You” – an album that got a much-appreciated reissue on Frederiksberg Records in 2015. “C.M. Music Train” expands his quartet to a 16 musician collective and this 50th Anniversary Edition contains three extra takes of “San Sebastian”, “Before Sunrise” and “C.M. Musictrain”. Ole Matthiessen, the album’s pianist and arranger, has worked to re-enliven the sound and provide sleeve notes.
“San Sebastian” showbizzily bursts in, all MF Horn/Buddy Rich big band high kicks and flapping flares before it horn-rasgueado descends into a fiery, flamenco free jazz assailment that relents after five and a half minutes to reveal a spiritualised, percussion-saturated tranquillity, allowing airy revisits of earlier motifs. A breathtaking start that highlights Meinert’s vigour.
“Before Sunrise” is blessed with the Pharaoh’s divinity. It’s an awakening; the moments of lucid joy before the day; or, a self-discovery through a significant other that would’ve lifted Linklater’s same-named exploration from everyday human love to something much more extramundane. Meinert effortlessly floats above percussive clouds, with occasional explosive, ascendant surges and submissive gestures. Its recurring theme is used as a gentle parting mantra rendering my usually unquiet mind quiet.
So…what to expect after near-perfect spiritual jazz? Howsabout some playful psych-pop? “C.M Music Train” is a ten and a half minute, Rowan and Martin Love-In. Initially quite pop-proper with uptempo, slightly boisterous horn joy and a spidery Pierre Dørge guitar riff, it explodes into acid dropping, fast camera-zooming Thor Backhausen organ fire, slapping horns and fierce drum breaks before guitar/sax freakouts propel it further out there. It then consciously splashes some cold water on its face, drinks a coffee and acquiesces to the pop sensibilities it began with. Incredible stuff.
“This Time” is a handsome, colourful modal jazz propelled by expansive drum and piano. Meinert’s Selmer varitone driven sax confidently bullies, while Lee Schipper’s vibes placate and titillate. “I’m going to Valby by the Railroad Track” is a brief, incongruous folk-blues jolly eliciting laughter from its players.
I’m so glad I got on board the Music Train. Meinert and the lads are fluently conversant in the varied styles played here and deliver them with infectious enthusiasm and vigour. They emit a Parliament’s Osmium-like, close-to-chaos energy that I also feel from other albums of the era. Meinert’s playing is vital throughout and, although he wasn’t ultimately convinced by the harsh tone of his Varitone, I think it brings a dynamic that augments his playing, making the highlights of his uniquely personal style higher and lighter – like Hendrix + overdrive and wah-wah. This album is an absolute joy – it’s peppy fresh and compelling and doesn’t make me feel like hiding in the toilets to avoid paying the ticket collector.