Featured Label: ECM
Founded by producer Manfred Eicher in 1969, ECM has to date issued more than 1200 albums spanning many idioms. After establishing an early reputation with standard-setting jazz recordings by Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley, Jan Garbarek, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and others, ECM began to include contemporary composition – including Steve Reich’s landmark “Music for 18 Musicians” – in its programme in the late 1970s; Eicher’s own background, as a musician active in both jazz and classical music, provided an unusually broad vantage point from which to survey, and influence, the genres.
ECM New Series was launched in 1984, originally to introduce Arvo Pärt’s “Tabula Rasa”, and has since become a broad platform for a wide variety of composed music from the pre-baroque era to the present day. The New Series continues to issue premiere recordings of Pärt’s works, including the recent “4th Symphony”, with further discs from the Estonian composer in preparation. Other regularly featured contemporary composers include Valentin Silvestrov, Tigran Mansurian, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Heinz Holliger, Giya Kancheli, György Kurtág, Meredith Monk, and Heiner Goebbels. A long line of distinguished interpreters has included Kim Kashkashian, András Schiff, Gidon Kremer, Thomas Demenga, the Hilliard Ensemble, Thomas Zehetmair, Carolin Widmann, Rolf Lislevand, Till Fellner, Herbert Henck, Alexei Lubimov, András Keller, Miklós Perényi, John Holloway, Trio Mediaeval, John Potter’s Dowland Project and the Rosamunde Quartett with Anja Lechner – amongst many others. The New Series is also a platform on which newer names may be encountered, such as label debuts by Swiss clarinettist Reto Bieri and Italy’s Duo Gazzana, as well as a first solo recital by Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon.
The next two new releases on ECM are the Tord Gustavsen Quartet’s ‘Extended Circle’ and Norma Winstone’s ‘Dance Without Answer’.
On the 27th January, ECM will also be re-issuing seven important recordings from its back catalogue, all on 180g vinyl and CD, most of which have been out of stock for many years. For both CD and LP versions, the original analog recordings are issued in deluxe cardboard sleeves.
The quality of ECM albums at all levels – from musicianship, production and engineering to cover art – has been widely recognised and the label has collected many awards. ECM has been hailed, by UK newspaper The Independent, as “the most important imprint in the world for jazz and new music.” In 2007 ECM won prizes as both classical label of the year and jazz label of the year (from the MIDEM Classical Awards and the Jazz Journalists Association). In 2008, 2009 and 2010 other double-wins saw Eicher voted producer of the year and ECM label of the year in the Down Beat Critics Poll. Also in 2009, ECM New Series was chosen as label of the Year by UK magazine Gramophone.
An account of ECM’s activities through four decades is encompassed in the book “Horizons Touched” (Granta Books, London, 2007). ECM’s cover art was the subject of “Sleeves of Desire” (Lars Müller Publishers, Badem, 1996); a second volume of ECM covers, “Windfall Light”/Der Wind, das Licht” was published by Lars Müller in November 2009. A Festschrift, “Der Blaue Klang” based upon a symposium at Mannheim University in the framework of ECM’s 40th anniversary events, was published in 2010. Documentation of ECM also continues in other media. Swiss filmmakers Norbert Wiedmer and Peter Guyer for five years followed Manfred Eicher to sessions around the world. Their documentary, “Sounds and Silence” received its first screenings in autumn 2009; a DVD edition and a soundtrack album were issued in 2011.