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January 23, 2009
ECM Records 2009 40th Anniversary Year
I only recently realised that 2009 was the 40th anniversary of my all time favourite record label ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music ) which was founded by Manfred Eicher in Munich in the autumn of 1969. I didn't discover them until some years later in the later part of the 1970s. The range of interesting jazz musicians from The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, John Abercrombie, Jack de Johnette, Don Cherry,Gary Peacock,Jan Garbarek and many others was fantastic. There was a well-known committment to the highest possible standards of recording. The vinyl was top quality and the art work for the covers was both modernist but tremendously artistic making the whole package a work of art.
Much of the music was ethereal and more contemplative what many described as "chamber jazz". Over the years the catalogue and number of artists has continuously developed. The Wikipdia entry associates some ECM artists with the rise of "World Music" but this is to ignore the cross-cultural links positively sought by many Afro-American jazz musicians from at least the 1960s. Africa was inspirational to musicians such as Randy Weston and Pharoah Sanders who are just 2 examples. Nana Vasconcelas, Don Cherry and later Shankar are good examples of cross-cultural fusions on th label. I love them and have seen many in concert over the years. These musicians are explorative and on the whole I wouldn't describe the works as "World Music" as this term often seems to double as folk musics. No, these were cutting edge musicians out on the edge! One can also add Steve Reich to this as he too was strongly influenced by rhythmic patterns from Africa and Bali for example.
Thirty years later, it remains the most uncompromised and distinctive entity of its kind. Eicher still goes entirely his own way, beholden to no major corporation and allied with different companies only for the purposes of distribution. Jazz was his original impetus, but his catalogue now boasts a plethora of recordings from numerous other disciplines. (Richard Cook New Statesman on 30th ECM Anniversary)
Eicher has supported unusual composers such as Eleni Karaindrou well known for providing the music for the films of Theo Angelopoulos.
Manfred Eicher with Steve Reich (Right) from booklet of Reich's Octet 1980
ECM New Series
February 2009 BBC Music Magazine Building a Library recommends this ECM version of Beethoven's complete music for Cello and Piano
In some of the finest Beethoven playing I've heard from Schiff, he combines a melting piano sound with crystalline articulation. (Helen Wallace, BBC Music Feb 09)
ECM has engaged some of the world's leading classical musicians to play well known works but they also took an early lead in commissioning works by musicians who were at the time relatively unheard of such as Arvo Pärt from Estonia along with the work of another Estonian, Tüür:
Taking advantage of the breakup of the old Soviet Union ECM was also able to promote the work of Georgian composer Giya Kancheli.
Below: Audio interview with Manfred Eicher from 1985