Re-issued music often takes a backseat to “the story”—which is why so many artists come prepackaged with gimmicks and one-liners that hopefully convey the context in which their music should be experienced. Frederiksberg Records, a small boutique based out of New York with strong ties to the European jazz scene, cuts the crap with the release of Carsten Meinert Kvartet’s To You. The album, aside from being ultra-rare and highly desirable among a certain community of record collectors, is really stellar. The original issue was only pressed with 1,000 copies and this is the first time the record is widely available on vinyl and CD. An essential addition to the collection of any jazz fan, not just the Sunday morning flea market crate digger.
There’s a profound American influence on To You, the result of jazz stars such as Dexter Gordon and Ben Wester relocating to Copenhagen and establishing a certain style among an already tightly-knit jazz community. The Kvartet balances avant wanderings with straightforward bebop heaters. The album is less focused on individual standouts than on tight cohesiveness over the record’s 11 tracks, although a live version of “Dansevise” featuring Elvin Jones and and Jimmy Garrison is the sort of face-melting goodness only available from a certain era of jazzers. The influence of John Coltrane’s band is prevalent past the participation of his drummer and and bass player, as the track following the live version of “Dansevise” is an ode to the legend himself, titled “To Trane.” The track displays the virtuosic ability of the Kvartet, able to pay homage to one of America’s true giants while still bringing a profoundly original bent to Trane’s signature sound. The American influence doesn’t end there, as one of the album’s strongest tracks is titled “Requiem For Martin Luther King.” The song is lush and patient, as smooth sax is accented by a brushed snare drum and exploratory bass.
“One For Alice” (likely Coltrane) takes on the experimental tendencies of its namesake, as whiplash drums (it’s a shame such a mediocre movie ruined such a wonderful term) color the track’s loose and experimental palate. This is no-bullshit jazz that alternates between bringing unrelenting heat and presenting aesthetic subtleties that elevate this collection from a good jazz record to a defining object of a time and place. Of course, knowing nothing of that time or place outside of this record eliminates any competition, but re-issues streamline the process by essentially suggesting what is best or most representative of a certain sound or period. Carsten Meinert Kvartet’s To You will likely remain an obscure timepiece of 70’s Copenhagen jazz long past this release, but those lucky enough to encounter To You have stumbled upon something endurable and powerful. A testament to what a reissue can (and should) accomplish.