Why should anyone like the band super-silent?

Jazz label: ECM

  • Dear jazz friends,

    most classical listeners should be familiar with ECM. Before this record company established itself in this area, it shaped the recording history of jazz in the seventies and eighties like no other - at least the European one. In 1969 bassist Manfred Eicher founded ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) in Munich.

    The man pursued a sound ideal that was later dubbed "most beautiful sound next to silence". The will to turn away from the common jazz sound, the desire for a transparent, almost hypothermic sound image and probably also the rather tight wallet prompted Eicher to look for young, hopeful talents. And what a knack he had with it!

    At an early age he won over the pianist Keith Jarrett and the saxophonist Jan Garbarek for ECM, which are still the big figureheads of the company today. He brought Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Egberto Gismonti, Jack DeJohnette and Ralph Towner on board, all of whom matured into style-defining instrumentalists of their generation. Eicher knew how to give the musicians a lot of leeway, but still to integrate them into the overall sound concept of the label.

    Examples of the early successes were the so-called "Fjord-Jazzer" (besides Garbarek e.g. guitarist Terje Rypdal and pianist Bobo Stenson - all still with ECM today!). who shaped a new ideal with a wide, elegiac sound. Keith Jarrett made headlines with his improvised solo parforce concerts (Cologne Concert, Bremen / Lausanne) or acoustic guitarists explored the possibilities between jazz, folklore and classical music (Towner, Gismonti).

    Most of the recordings were made in Rainbow Studios in Oslo or in the Bauer recording studio in Ludwigsburg, and sometimes in New York's Power Station. House and yard sound engineer Jan-Erik Kongshaug ensured consistently high production results. Many CDs were also live recordings - these too on a sound technical level.

    What Eicher couldn't offer financially, he made up for with the label's policy of always keeping all records on the market and not sacrificing anything to any deletions. With a few exceptions, mostly in the sampler area, this is still the case today. Guitarist Pat Metheny remembers that when he released his debut "Bright Size Life" he only sold a three-digit number of records. To date, however, the half-million mark has been reached.

    Let's stay with Metheny as an example: If the musical ideas of the musician diverged too much from those of Eicher, they parted ways. Metheny's increasingly thick sound sauce no longer wanted to fit in with ECM's clear, puristic image. Financial reasons may also have played a role. The same was true of Chick Corea and Gary Burton. It was astonishing that it took all these musicians a long time to artistically reconnect with the ECM times, if they did it at all.

    The cover design was almost without exception a woman, which led to a high recognition effect, but was still very varied. What one can hardly say today: Anyone who has bought CDs from ECM in the last ten years will hardly be able to tell them apart from the outside: The black and white covers, which always appear the same, are too much of a good thing.

    Where we are at the downer: In the last few years I have clearly lost interest in ECM. The average age of the artist apparently grows with the Eichers. The old warriors reproduce themselves over and over again. This can be heard worst at Garbarek. ECM is no longer the label that discovers and promotes young, exciting musicians on a large scale. In this regard, the music is playing in completely different companies today. The last big highlight was possibly the CD "Khmer" by Nils Petter Molvaer, maybe the discovery of the Polish piano trio around Marcin Wasilewski. Should I be wrong in this regard and I have missed a decisive point, I ask for the appropriate information.

    Following the above introduction, I would now like to recommend some outstanding ECM CDs. I orient myself towards the important artists who were or are still under contract with Manfred Eicher. As I wrote above, my interest in the company waned significantly about 8 to 10 years ago. I would be happy to receive recommendations from the recent past.

    Keith Jarrett
    Exceptional pianist with a Wagnerian attitude, started with Charles Lloyd in the mid-1960s, then switched to the great Miles Davis, for whom he made a one-off exception and also sat on electronic keyboard instruments. A special case - insofar as he recorded parallel in Europe with ECM and in the USA with Impulse.
    The most important recordings at ECM were the large improvised solo concerts and from 1983 the work with his trio, which has since developed into the most consistent trio in jazz history and is on the way to putting together an almost complete retrospective of the "Great American Songbook", i.e. the pieces Cole Porter, Jerome Kerns, Oscar Hammerstein and many more record, mostly live for several years. The following CDs represent both areas:

    Köln Concert (1975), Bremen / Lausanne (1973), Still live (1986), At the Blue Note (1994)

    Jan Garbarek
    Norwegian saxophonist, initially an avant-garde player and tester of free forms, for many years advocate of a clean, minimalist style with a strong connection to the folklore of his country. Melodious, tonal, sometimes almost meditative. Has great success with his "crossover" productions, e.g. with the Hilliard Ensemble or violist Kim Kashkashian. Has been producing for 20 years with a semi-permanent line-up, but only the first CDs with this band are worthwhile, true to the motto: know one, know everyone.

    Photo with blue sky ... (1979), I took up the runes (1990), Twelve Moons (1993)

    Chick Corea
    Pianist, he too came from the Miles Davis School. Has recorded big records beyond ECM, but those in Munich can be heard! In recent years he has paid homage to his idol L. Ron Hubbard and has also made corresponding records ... negligible.

    Return to forever (1972), Crystal Silence (1973), Trio Music Live in Europe (1984)

    Gary Burton
    The most important vibraphonist of the last decades. Emancipated the instrument, which was originally played by people who were new to the drums, with its pianistic approach and its 4- or 6-mallet playing.

    In Concert, Zurich (1979)

    Pat Metheny
    Now probably the most successful jazz guitarist of all time. Like no other, shaped an army of millions of eager imitators. From the mid-1970s onwards, countless Metheny imitators could be heard around the world. Anyone who dealt with the guitar could hardly avoid confronting him. After his ECM time, he fished in too shallow waters at times, but is still good for exciting productions today.

    Brigth Size Life (1976), 80/81 (1980), Offramp (1981), Travels (1982)

    Drummer, like Metheny, one of the stylistic innovators of his instrument. He kept putting together new groups with whom he went different musical ways. Member of the aforementioned Keith Jarretts trio. Was unfaithful to ECM as a band leader for a while, but returned.

    Special Edition (1979), Tin Can Alley (1980)

    Ralph Towner
    Classically trained in Vienna guitarist who convinced through solo projects, often with a twelve-string guitar, but had particular success with his group Oregon, which with its Indian, European and South American influences is representative of so-called "world jazz".

    Solo Concert (1980), Crossing (1985), Ecotopia (1987)

    Dave Holland
    Double bass player, and another Miles Davis pupil. Always a breathtaking virtuoso, but also an incredibly good composer and arranger. In the last few years he has had the well-deserved honor of winning almost everything there is in jazz prizes around the world. And - as I was able to experience myself - a very likeable, humble, communicative person.

    Triplicate (1988), Points of View (1997), What goes around (2001)

    Charles Llyod
    The tenor saxophonist has one of the most unique voices on his instrument. Its tone is light, airy, almost glassy and lets you forget any difficulty in mastering this instrument. Lloyd is black with Indian roots, practicing Zen Buddhist, who meditates extensively before his concerts and researches various musical corners of the earth. Fortunately, this does not mean that he mixes an inedible multi-cultural cocktail with an esoteric touch. Rather, he absorbs the diverse influences of his impressive biography and in the end lets his very own, calmly reflective, always transparent music speak, which opens worlds far away from all world music clichés. An ideal musician for the label ECM, which is concerned with stylistic diversity without falling into arbitrariness. And that, with its clay-like sound ideal, helps Charles Lloyd's music achieve its magic.

    Fish out of Water (1989), Canto (1996), The Water is Wide (1999)

    Nils Petter Molvaer
    Norwegian trumpeter. Association of electronic club sounds and ambient music with jazz about ten years ago. An honest pioneer of a movement that unfortunately resulted in a lot of mediocrity afterwards.

    Khmer (1997)

    This is only a small selection of musicians who stood and still stand representative of the sound ideals of Manfred Eicher.

    "At mini golf I learned how to lose with decency." (Element of Crime)
  • Dear Carsten,

    First of all, I would like to thank you for this very nice introduction to the ECM label.
    This label accompanied me on my first excursions into jazz in the 70s.
    Everyone in my circle of friends had at least a couple of ECM disks.

    Somehow you got the feeling that European musicians or even more exaggerated Scandinavian musicians or Scandinavian sound would dominate the current jazz market.

    In my opinion, however, the time has passed, you write it similarly.

    Perhaps every label, especially the style-defining label, has its time and it will run out at some point. Manfred Eicher was able to realize his style over decades, presumably a different musical direction would no longer be ECM .authentic for him.
    In my opinion, the same can be said of Manfred Brunner's MPS label, whose music was at the forefront in the 60s and early 70s and then just disappeared into oblivion.
    And this doesn't even apply to BlueNote, THE label in general .......... Nowadays, in my opinion, BlueNote is no longer style-defining in jazz, Norah Jones likes to sell well, and I like to listen to her to relax , but the drive of the early years is out, isn't it?

    Anyway, ECM was cult for me back then, we had the catalog and ticked off the records we owned .......

    My absolute favorite record, also because there are so many very personal memories on it, is

    You also named this record.

    I don't know how many times I do Sometime ago heard while indulging in an unfulfilled love (as a result) .............

  • The fact that ECM with Jan Garbark, among other things, shaped the German image of Scandinavian jazz in a more elegant way - also in connection with the cover photos of further deserted views of nature - an image that today expands from Act, around the mostly too smooth Nils Landgren and the many poppy singing ladies - shouldn't overlook the fact that there was and is a completely different jazz in Scandinavia, which mostly came out elsewhere, with stunt and the many smaller Scandinavian labels.

    But sometimes even something completely different from Scandinavia accidentally got lost - an inattentiveness on the part of Manfred Eicher? on ECM, e.g. these two from Krakatau:

    Two of my favorite ECM records with wild postcoltranesque brass, weird psychedelic electric guitar and lots of power from drums and percussion. This is also not untypical for a lot of Scandinavian jazz, especially for what is very interesting there today. It is also not atypical in that Scandinavian jazz often found references to local folk at a very early stage, as well as to folk that was picked up elsewhere or simply made up by yourself, and very early on to all kinds of world music. There is also a lot of psychedelic fantasy Asia to be heard here. After these two records, however, it was over for this great Danish-Swedish band at ECM.

    As a producer, Steve Lake was also able to accommodate music at ECM that contradicted the usual ECM image and sound ideal, e.g. the last recordings by Hal Russell.

    Unfortunately, in my opinion, the spectrum of jazz releases seems to be limited.

    Of course there are still a number of musicians who I really appreciate at ECM, e.g. Enrico Rava, Stefano Bollani, Thomasz Stanko, Bobo Stenson, Paul Bley. Their CDs are still very good. But for me the mood of their live performances, which is much more interesting for me, is only very subdued at ECM. Sometimes wilder, more aggressive or the wonderful humor at Ravas / Bollani's live performances, for example, comes across as very subdued. In my opinion, Rava, Bollani, Paul Bley have been making their more interesting recordings elsewhere for a long time. The famous Louis Sclavis, who was always good for surprises, has also left. I wish those named would do that entirely. I think that would do her recordings good. But over the years, ECM has simply built up a comparatively first-class sales force and trained an audience that simply buys "ECM records". As a musician, of course, you don't like to give that up. Because what use is the ingenious CD that is nowhere discussed or displayed in stores and is not listed on JPC or Amazon. Even if you can record with Label Bleu like Sclavis and Rava, the market for jazz CDs is smaller in France than in Germany and here the distribution and public relations work even for this no longer so small label leaves a lot to be desired.

    Stunt Records, the largest Scandinavian jazz label from Denmark, which has its own distribution system with Sundance and is well equipped with capital from state subsidies and other industries, is currently trying hard to get into the German and European markets with massive support from the Danish state. In France, as I have heard, already with some success in terms of sales. Stunt mostly comes out of good mainstream, so not just something for the new-tuner freaks, but they too are occasionally provided with excellent items. But hardly any recording corresponds to the ECM and now also Act-determined German Scandinavian image. In addition, international stars are often brought in for recordings by Scandinavian bands. In addition, the CDs with the winners' concerts of the highest endowed European jazz prize, the Jazzpar-Price, are published here. The list of award winners is excellent and, in my opinion, all of these recordings have been recognized in the rich discographies of the award winners. One of the rules of these award-winning recordings is that the award winners must also invite Scandinavian musicians in addition to preferred partners from their own projects or with whom they have always wanted to play together.

    It will be interesting to see whether Stunt Records succeeds in changing the very one-sided image of Scandinavian jazz in Germany and, as a result, also smaller labels with more unusual music can tap into the public and a market niche in Germany.

  • I copied the quote from Matthias below from the "Just goutiert" thread in order not to get too much off track there. And since Molvaer was still an ECM artist at the time of the discussed CD, it ended up here ...
    Quote from Matthias Oberg

    Molvaer brings techno and jazz together. I have heard from acquaintances who understand something about it that it is relatively advanced techno that is docked on here. On the one hand, he ties in with older connections between modern electronic music and jazz, as they emerged early in Norway, on the other hand, with certain trance-techno directions, which I cannot specify more precisely because I am interested in electronic music In general, little can begin, but this trance direction probably explains Achim's impression after a few audio snippets. But then it gets more interesting, because it is not purely electronic and with very good electric guitars and is very danceable, especially in the live version. That's not mine either
    Direction, I got "Khmer" as a present from a saxophonist who also gives good music in the border areas of techno and has to admit, I think it is very successful and well done in Khmer. Since Khmer was extremely successful, Molvaer and his very good guitarist have put on various albums of a similar style, but conceptually they don't deliver anything new. I got a few as review copies and found them to be significantly weaker new infusions of the same.
    I rub myself a bit against the term "techno" that Molvaer would like to use here. I mean something else by that. Basically, the Norwegian musicians of jazz, but also of rock, are characterized by greater independence and originality than is the case with their Scandinavian neighbors. For decades, for example, two or three generations of performing musicians in a nation have looked as little to America as the Norwegians do. There are many reasons for this in jazz, for example, which would be a bit tedious to deal with here. If today the view from the fjords is directed outwards, then it mostly rests on the British Isles. This applies to current music trends as well as to football.

    The club music of the English cities of Bristol, London and Brighton also reached the Norwegian metropolitan areas of Oslo and Bergen. Currents like Jungle, TripHop or Ambient quickly became popular in the far north. Since some of them are very suitable for being coupled with elements and the music-making style of jazz, such mixed projects came about very quickly. Molvaer played a leading role, as did his guitarist Eivind Aarset, pianist Bugge Wesseltoft and the group Supersilent. ECM initially had a nose for betting on this "new horse". However, their own Norwegian labels soon established themselves (e.g. Wesseltoft's Jazzland), which sold this music better and more consistently.

    But I fully agree with Matthias that Molvaer's debut "Khmer" is at the same time the high point of his work. The CD and the live tours following the release are really a milestone because they organically brought acoustic and electronic instruments together and showed that electronics can also be used to make music live and improvising in a band.

    "At mini golf I learned how to lose with decency." (Element of Crime)
  • Dear Carsten, dear Achim, dear Matthias,

    can you replace the cover JPGs in this thread with correct jpc or Amazon links? The Admod team pointed this out again in the copyright thread just three days ago:


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    "Where the relationship with our ears, nerves, experiences and living conditions is lost today, interpretation becomes an escape into the past."
    Alfred Brendel

    "Music is a fish defrosted with a hair-dryer." Maisie
  • Carsten wrote:

    I rub myself a bit against the term "techno" that Molvaer would use here. I mean something else by that.

    Dear Carsten,

    O.K. - electronic dance floor club music or something ; I wrote that I am not very familiar with the individual names and styles here, because I am generally not that interested in electronic music. But jungle, trance, ambient, trip-hop have already been described as techno variants and extensions. Molvaer probably took in a bit of everything. But also of more and I'll come to that.

    Basically, the Norwegian musicians of jazz, but also of rock, are more independent and original than their Scandinavian neighbors.

    Apart from the fact that the Scandinavian scenes are so strongly interlinked that they are actually less nationally, but rather via the respective network, insofar as this statement is very questionable, I wonder who you are from Denmark, Sweden, Finland Know Iceland to make such an apodictic judgment? E.g. Fred Lonberg-Holm, Mats Gustafsson, Dror Feiler (the latter also composer of the "complexist" direction from Sweden, e.g. Hilmar Jensson and Skuli Sverrisson from Iceland and Lotte Anker, Mette Peterssen, the Copenhagen Art Orchestra, Per Dörge, Frank Lundin, or even old John Tchicai from Denmark? ... all far more radically innovative musician. Palle Mikkelborg is a veteran of modern Danish jazz and he is not only a trumpeter, but also an electronics pioneer in jazz. Sorry, but I'm stopping here your judgment for absurd and completely unfounded.

    For decades, for example, two or three generations of performing musicians in a nation have looked as little to America as the Norwegians do.

    That is also completely wrong. It doesn't even apply to the circle around Wesseltoft, Molvaer, Aarsent, Supersilent, because it would hardly be conceivable without the Scandinavian bands of the American George Russell, in which he already combined advanced electronic composition and improvised jazz on a level of complexity , the Wesseltoft. Molvaer etc. have never reached even in their best projects. In these mixed Swedish-Norwegian bands of the Stefan Wolpe student and jazz theorist Russell plus some Britons like John Surman, who also experimented with electronics from time to time, played e.g. B. also Terje Rypdal, who was extremely important for Molvaer and Aarset. Russell worked in parallel with Norwegian and Swedish pioneers of electro-acoustic composition in the studios for electronic music, which were built early on in Stockholm and Oslo based on the Cologne model. One of these composers from Oslo then became a kind of teacher for Wesseltoft. Molvaer himself says that he owes a lot to the late Miles Davis, but remains anonymous with him, but certainly a not insignificant, very audible influence especially for his best CD "Khmer", the African American Graham Haynes (trumpet, keyboards, electronics) who also combined advanced electronic music with art rock, post rock and improvised jazz. Especially in his collaboration with Bill Laswell (e-bass, electronics), Elliott Sharpe (very experimental e-guitar and electronics) and the drummers Terri Lyn Carrington and Cindy Blackman, who also use original electronics, music was created earlier that went in a similar direction in some ways, but is more complex and experimental. Elliott Sharpe, for example, is also one of the more important contemporary composers. In addition, these musicians have a completely different improvisational ability. Collaborations with the Japanese live electronics specialist Ikue Mori and Laswell, Sharpe, Zorn, but also with the New York trumpeters Dave Douglas and Frank London were there before, and with Laswell and Sharpe they also became world music and sometimes dance club capable. The Wesseltofft, Molvaer etc. have definitely heard that too, but they only offer the enormously reduced, more pleasant variant, which was then really closer to British club sounds. Their leading figures have already referred to Laswell, Haynes, Mori - even I know that much, although that is really not my field.

    In Norway there are also completely different, at least as good, influential and innovative connections that are much more interesting to me, for example about the bass player Ingebrikt Haker-Flaten and everyone who plays a lot in the "Brötz", a jazz club in Oslo for really wild, experimental stuff, named after Brötzmann. This scene is very close to that of Chicago around Ken Vandermark, Jeb Bishop, Wadada Leo Smith and others, but also with Brötzmann, with The Ex and Han Bennink in Holland, with like-minded guys around Lundberg-Holm and Gustafsson in Sweden Denmark and Finland, but also in Portugal and Italy, like Guillermo Gregorio there, also someone who is equally active in jazz and modern composition, connected and there are multiple overlapping band projects. That might make them less original "Norwegian", according to what is considered typically "Norwegian" here in Germany, but it doesn't make them any less original than great Norwegian musicians who have a major impact on jazz in Norway.

    There are at least two other regular venues in Oslo, and more in Bergen, where you can hear very good jazz and rock that is adventurous almost every day, nothing of which is reflected in the German image of Norway, which is shaped by ECM, act and the Wesseltoffts labels , fits. Here, too, the connection is mostly not only very close with musicians in the rest of Scandinavia, but also almost even more with the USA, after all, almost every Norwegian family still has close connections to the USA, due to the huge wave of emigration at the beginning of the last century when In a few decades half of the population emigrated there, settled there largely in a relatively narrow area, thus maintaining the connections to each other and to Norway as well as the Norwegian language. Imagine if half of Germans would have emigrated to the USA in 2 1/2 decades - what that would mean! Much can be read about this in Siri Hustved's novels and essays.

    That is why, from its early beginnings until today, jazz in Norway has been particularly closely linked to jazz in the USA.

    It goes so far that the really typical original Norwegian brass bands that still exist in many places today almost all jazz up their native brass folk considerably. This really lively tradition, played almost exclusively by amateurs, often for amateurs, at a very high level of play, in turn inspired some African-American jazz and blues musicians so much that Lester Bowie and Taj Mahall, among others, recorded CDs with two of the best of these bands, the Effortlessly have traditional as well as currently funky New Orleans Brass Band Jazz in the best possible way and combine this with other, also new jazz directions as well as with their own traditions. This phenomenon is really originally Norwegian and at the same time, as in no other European country, closely related to the USA.

    Another important line of tradition of jazz in Norway was, almost from the beginning, the connection of jazz with local, but also European folk and soon also with non-European folk. But that was nothing specifically Norwegian, it is an all-Scandinavian phenomenon. It's still very much alive and there is a lot more to it than Garbarek and the Samin Mari Boine. Incidentally, Garbarek was also one of these Russell band members, came through Russell to Karl-Heinz Stockhausen and thus to the Stockhausen student Brüninghaus as a keyboardist - and he got the idea of ​​using Sami music from the Indian-Afro-American saxophonist Jim Pepper, whose Witchi-Tai-Too about Indian melodies and rhythms he has acted out. One of the most original and influential active musicians of this direction in Norway today is Stian Carstensen. He not only plays with Balkan jazzers and Eastern Europeans, but also with the New Yorkers, e.g. from Pachora and the Radical Jewish Music - Klezmer jazzers, who do very similar things. Skuli Sverisson also plays in the New York band Pachora.

    So in Norwegian jazz, viewed as a whole, the opposite is the case: it is even particularly closely linked to the USA without affecting the individual originality of many Norwegian musicians. Here, too, the opposite is true!


    P.S .: Dear Jürgen, thank you for the reminder. For my part now done and on the occasion I noticed something else that urgently needed to be corrected.
  • Dear Carsten,

    When I looked through my above article again, I was now a little worried that the polemicist had gotten over it with me a little too much. Due to time constraints, I'll leave it unprocessed, but please be patient with my unnecessarily sharp tone.

  • I was wrong about one point: Graham Haynes and Bill Laswell did not go unnamed at Molvaer, as I wrote, rather he explicitly named them as important influences from the start.

    In the meantime he can also be heard with both of them on this CD:

    By the way, Graham Haynes is the son of drummer Roy Haynes.

  • ECM is now ready for a museum - this exhibition can be seen in the Munich House of Kunz:


    Cheers, Lavine
    “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.
    Oscar Wilde
  • ECM is a label that I generally avoid because the recordings from the label that I heard were too faded for me.
    Just because something was a lot of work and sweat does not mean it is better or more important than something that was fun. (Helge Schneider)
  • Greetings, Helli

    Always stay cool.