ECM Records is back again! Nicely, they by no means definitely went absent for some of us — at the very least not for me — but now the legendary label has decided to rejoin us right here in the vinyl pool, and the thought couldn’t have appear at a improved time.
If you are not acquainted with the ECM universe but get pleasure from ambient-leaning, improvisationally oriented music that dances in and all over the realm of jazz, then you are in for a take care of. From the ECM web site, we find out, “The impartial history label ECM – Version of Present-day Music – was launched by producer Manfred Eicher in 1969, and to day has issued additional than 1,700 albums spanning many idioms. Pioneering recordings of artists this kind of as Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Chick Corea, Paul Bley, Gary Burton, Egberto Gismonti, Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette, and The Artwork Ensemble of Chicago recognized ECM’s name as a label to be reckoned with.”
Back again in the working day, ECM was a label where by you basically didn’t have to know who the artist even was to be prepared to acquire a probability on buying the history. You just realized the songs would be gorgeous — or at the very least haunting — and that it would provide an usually ambient, natural-sounding, and richly introspective mood that commonly matched the vibe of the include artwork.
When I listened to that ECM was yet again releasing LPs, I questioned their PR crew if I could look at out some of the most recent titles for AP. They graciously sent me a handful of titles by a few artists I am familiar with, some I was curious to understand about, and other folks I’d in no way listened to of just before. Real to kind and in the ECM tradition, these recordings are typically exemplary, recorded in fine studios across Europe and in New York.
Below are the important vinyl stats, some of which I have verified immediately with the label reps. While all these recordings were in actuality designed digitally, and most likely in hello-res, all the pressings are fantastic, coming in darkish, thick, and tranquil, usually 180g vinyl (probably) produced at History Market in Germany. All five of the albums becoming reviewed below are well-centered — one thing that is especially necessary for tunes these as this, which generally capabilities lengthy, drawn-out instrumental tones that can if not waver in and out of tune. The SRPs are ordinarily $25.99 for 1LP ECM editions, and $39.99 for their 2LP editions.
Digital factors aside, I have ranked most of these recordings at 9 as they normally do seem extremely awesome, heat, and inviting. But I have still left some home open up for a 10 ranking down the pike, as I do ponder how this new music may well sound experienced it been designed in the analog area as a lot of of the early ECM titles ended up. Possibly sometime, we’ll see a wonderful reissue series of some of those seminal early ECM releases — and we’ll gladly critique them way too, if/when that time arrives.
The 5 new albums I take a look at in this article keep in quite a few methods to that traditional ECM aesthetic, probably to a fault. Even though they are all incredibly diverse, these albums could very easily be set into a mixtape or playlist, if you weren’t that intimate with the respective artists. There is an ECM seem, to be guaranteed — but when you’re listening to these LPs far more intently, the exceptional traits of every single artist get even further uncovered.
With all that in mind, the subsequent are a collection of mini-opinions of each and every of these 5 albums — or Quick Cuts, as we’ve begun to simply call these type of more compact assessments less than our broader Critique Explosion banner — and they also include any pertinent background from ECM’s official push products if warranted.
This is the to start with time I have listened to Israeli trumpet player Avishai Cohen. From the official ECM push resources, we study about the building of this 1LP: “Cohen experienced just a person rehearsal and one ‘mini-concert’ with [pianist] Yonathan Avishai and [double bassist] Barak Mori prior to the session at Studios La Buissonne. The discussion about what to enjoy and what not to engage in evolved out of that.” Appropriately, Bare Truth is a thing of a refined suite of shift-shaping actions.
The greatest enhance I can provide here is that the music did what all superior recordings should really do — it created me curious to listen to far more new music by this artist. At times, I listened to echoes of Jon Hassell, and at other times, I felt ghosts of Form of Blue-period Miles Davis dancing all around the space. A lovely recording, in truth. Naked Real truth was laid down at Studios La Buissonne in Pernes-les-Fontaines, France in September 2021. The album was engineered by Gerad De Haro, and mastered by Nicholas Baillard.
RETURN FROM THE STARS
This is 1 of my favorites of the initial batch of new ECM releases I’ve heard so significantly, most likely mainly because it swings the most and has extra of a vintage early/mid-’60s Miles Davis type of vibe. (In that feeling, it counters most from my before imperfect concept that ECM artists typically sound alike!) Seemingly named after a Stanislav Lem sci-fi novel, Return From the Stars is a 2LP set that delivers little by little evolving arrangements of seem, inserting Turner’s tenor sax and Jason Palmer’s trumpet centerstage.
There is a fantastic feeling of floating flexibility right here, no doubt in component thanks to the buoyant aid of the rhythm portion of double bassist Joe Martin and drummer Jonathan Pinson. Return From the Stars is Turner’s initially quartet album since 2014’s Lathe of Heaven, and I’ll certainly be searching for a lot more music by this terrific artist. Recorded at Sear Audio Studio, New York and engineered by Chris Allan, blended at Studios La Buissonne in Pernes-les-Fontaines, France in September 2021 by Manfred Eicher and Gerad De Haro, and mastered by Nicholas Baillard.
TORD GUSTAVSEN TRIO
As with lots of of these artists, I’d not read of pianist Tord Gustavsen right before this overview — and of program that suggests totally practically nothing, since obviously he is a known and beloved expertise to a lot of admirers around the world. Coincidentally, he played in San Francisco soon following I received this album for review, but I couldn’t make it out to the demonstrate, unfortunately. Listed here, on the 1LP Opening, the Tord Gustavsen Trio examine considerably minimalist exploratory jazz-leaning tunes, often recalling flavors like Brad Mehldau’s more introspective moments, and other occasions bringing quasi-new age seems to head.
I like the fairly a lot more upfront creation model in this article, with nice stereo separation on the drums (i.e., loads of still left-proper cymbal and tom-tom detailing), with bass useless-heart just behind the piano. Obviously, there is something right here that is pulling me back again in (once again, a good sign!), so I honestly have to have to devote extra time with Gustavsen’s moody, somber, and ultimately stunning new music, which is likely the very best compliment I can supply listed here. Recorded at Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano, Italy in Oct 2021, and engineered by Stefano Amerio.
It is not stunning a person of my favorites of this ECM batch is by guitarist extraordinaire John Scofield — and this self-titled 1LP is truly really interesting, as it seems in contrast to most of the recordings I have read of his. In truth, specified that he is working with a “looper” unit (which permits for genuine-time sampling of himself to enjoy alongside with), the audio reminds me at times of one more modern-day guitar genius, Invoice Frisell (by way of Adrian Legg at moments).
Below, Scofield tackles some specifications throughout different genres of music these as “My Old Flame,” Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Absent,” Hank Williams’ “You Acquire Once again,” and the conventional “Danny Boy,” but he also includes some pleasant originals as properly. John Scofield is a very pleasing listen with no genuine harsh edges, even when he commences to get a little bit brilliant in his solos. A nice modern-day spin that seems high-quality late at evening or early in the morning. Recorded at Top rated Story Studio, Katonah, New York, engineered by Tyler McDiarmid, and mastered by Christopher Stickel.
ENRICO RAVA / FRED HERSCH
THE Music IS YOU
New music: 8
When I received this album from ECM for overview, Enrico Rava’s name appeared common. As it turns out, I do have one album by this Trieste, Italy-primarily based trumpeter that I picked up out of curiosity a number of a long time ago (1976’s The Plot, on ECM) at a applied document shop. Rava is also on a interesting Carla Bley-connected venture I acquired just very last yr, 1971’s Escalator About the Hill, on JCOA. In quick, Rava has been affiliated with ECM for some 50 a long time, and this new 1LP, The Tune Is You, is his collaboration with Cincinnati-dependent pianist Fred Hersch, someone who is new to the ECM family.
In accordance to formal press components, each artists “share a deep passion for the tradition and a profound sense for melodic invention.” An abnormal pairing of flugelhorn and piano, this recording was captured in an acoustically beautiful studio. And even though the pair cover many benchmarks below — Jerome Kern’s “The Track Is You,” Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso” and “‘Round Midnight,” Antônio Carlos Jobim’s “Retrato em Branco e Preto,” and George Bassman’s “I’m Getting Sentimental Around You” — the mix is novel, so the audio seems curiously refreshing. Rava and Hersch also participate in some originals. Recorded at Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano, Italy in November 2021, and engineered by Stefano Amerio.
(Mark Smotroff is an avid vinyl collector who has also worked in promoting communications for many years. He has reviewed music for AudiophileReview.com, amongst other people, and you can see extra of his outstanding C.V. at LinkedIn.)