Guest ariceffron

ECM Records

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i have a big feeling that people who like ECM have a secret society where they all get together and do god knows what. Is ECM overrated? or is the perception one which should be pondered? I personally like all the ECM recordings ive heard, which is not as many as other labels, im sad to say. But if feel that someday i will meet someone or get involved w/ something, that will involve ECM somehow. But i dont know exactly....

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Pssst...Wanna buy a grubby, slightly used copy of the Protocols...Psssst.

Simon Weil

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Society? :wacko: Secret meetings? :wacko:

Preposterous !

Rubbish !

Poppycock !

All I will say at this point is that I thoroughly enjoy the ECM sound and have since I started getting hooked on jazz in the 70s. That is all I will say at this point. I refuse to answer any questions about some society that someone dreamt up or comment on what may go on at these alleged meetings. I suppose you think we or they sprinkle their regular posts with code words and such :wacko: That is all I am saying. End of discussion.

Expect to be contacted by Bev Stapleton shortly........

Edited by Ed Swinnich

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ECM is a record label. That's it!

Oh that most record labels should be run by someone like Eicher prepared to give musicians such artistic freedom or engineer meetings of musicians who might not otherwise.

As for the ECM 'sound' - it's always struck me as something of a myth. Yes, ECM recordings are very clearly recorded. But the 'cold' sound that denigrators seems to hear has more to do with the types of music being recorded there. By and large they don't fit into the US straight jazz tradition (or avant-garde tradition come to that). Commentators who don't get the music have lazily repeated the 'cold, clinical' cliche ad nauseum. It would be more approppriate for them to say 'this is a musical style that does not move me.'

Like every label it has its success and failures, things I like, things I don't. But compared with the big guys its success rate (to my ears) is amazing.

Edited by Bev Stapleton

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Whether it be the style or the music or the ECM "sound" or some combination thereof, it sure reaches me. You have to tip your hat to a label that has over the years released as much excellent material as these guys.

I wonder if they'd ever consider doing box sets of some of their older material a la Mosaic. There's some classic material by some great artists.

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As for the ECM 'sound' - it's always struck me as something of a myth. Yes, ECM recordings are very clearly recorded. But the 'cold' sound that denigrators seems to hear has more to do with the types of music being recorded there. By and large they don't fit into the US straight jazz tradition (or avant-garde tradition come to that). Commentators who don't get the music have lazily repeated the 'cold, clinical' cliche ad nauseum. It would be more approppriate for them to say 'this is a musical style that does not move me.'

Oh, I think there's definitely an ECM sound. It's related to European Romanticism - It does lack blues as a core element. Also there's an elevation of clarity and precision of the quality of that (romantic) sound that is part of the experience of listening to ECM records.

It's kind of like the sound sets the scene for you to listen to the records.

Simon Weil

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Oh, I think there's definitely an ECM sound. It's related to European Romanticism  - It does lack blues as a core element. Also there's an elevation of clarity and precision of the quality of that (romantic) sound that is part of the experience of listening to ECM records.

It's kind of like the sound sets the scene for you to listen to the records.

Can't say I agree.

The lack of 'blues as a core' is a common feature of a great deal of European jazz - many jazz musicians from Europe quite deliberately leave it out (or don't even consider putting it in!) as a way of approaching jazz from a distinctly non-American direction.

ECM just happens to record a lot of that music.

If you like its 'one of' the 'sounds' of jazz made in Europe over the last 30 odd years.

I can't say I've ever felt that the clarity - romantic or otherwise - has ever been a factor in my listening to an ECM recording. I like the way they are recorded so clearly but don't see it as any more than a technological enabler to hear the music; not part of the listening itself.

Maybe those of an audiophile-bent like to listen to the recording.

Artistic freedom? Not from what I've heard. It seems like a real opressive situation.

Well. 7/4, that oppression does not seem to have stopped the likes of Jarrett, Holland, Wheeler, Abercrombie, Towner and many more from recording for Eicher for decades! From what I've read he's a man of strong opinions and there can be clashes with the artists...but I doubt if they are any more than most other label bosses or producers.

As far as I know Eichers never required Kenny Wheeler or Tomasz Stanko to get Sting or Chaka Khan to do a vocal on one of the tracks on their new album!

Just what oppressive situations are you referring to?

Edited by Bev Stapleton

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Isn't this the reality of a lot of creative situations?

Bands thrive and founder on 'musical differences.' I can't imagine it's all that different between musicians and producers.

The singer probably didn't 'walk' because there was little chance of a recording elsewhere!

I'm pretty sure Metheny did walk because he got a much better offer (financially) elsewhere. And look what situation he ended up in when he got to Geffen!

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Pat and Lyle left ECM because they felt Eicher was putting a damper on what they wanted to do musically. Although the things production wise that were on their ECM records have always stayed with them in certain degrees to this day. If one heard Lyle Mays' Geffen debut without knowing they switched labels from ECM to Geffen you would think it was an ECM recording from the production. The engineer is Jan Erik Kongshaug. I have heard admittedly only Jarrett and Metheny on ECM (thus the 9 ECM's in my collection) but they are a very unique label. The minimalism on the covers is striking. Didn't Steve Reich record "Music for 18 Musicians" first on ECM?

Edited by CJ Shearn

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Indeed Reich recorded Music for 18 on ECM.

Anyone who thinks the label is cold and clinical should give the recent release by Savina Yannatou a listen. Those first two cuts are on fire!

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on Jarrett's latest disc "Up For It" the sound is amazing. Although I don't have a super system, a good one nonetheless. The sound is great, rich bass from Peacock (not the crappy DI stuff we've discussed in another thread) and I feel like I'm right behind DeJohnette's cymbals. Funny thing too, you can hear a dog barking in the distance after the first tune, wonder why Keith didn't tell it to shut up first ;) Oh yeah, has any one heard Keith's "Spirits"? I heard "Spirits 17" during a tribute to him broadcasted from Swedish TV over the net, the Polar Music Prize ceremony. What is the general opinion of that "Spirits" record? to me it seems like a sincere effort but an overindulgence in a concept, in a similar way to Pat Metheny's "Zero Tolerance For Silence" (which is intriguing) Spirits wouldn't be a record I'd buy anytime soon, still trying to buy more trio recordings then eventually the solo and European Quartet stuff.

Edited by CJ Shearn

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I was involved a few local projects w/John Purcell during the time he was recording for ECM w/DeJohnette, and if he was to be believed (certainly no reason for me NOT to), there was a DEFINITE ECM "sound" in those days as it pertained to EQ'ing, soundstaging, use of reverb, stuff like that. The sound of the record as opposed to the style of the music.

I seem to remember George Adams expressing, if not exactly displeasure, at least a bit of frustration, that his sole ECM effort had been "flavored" by Eicher's musical "suggestions". Of course this is going to be true at most all labels, but I think if one doesn't go too overboard in defining it that it's safe to say that there is a general ECM "sound" (especially as it pertains to recording quality), and that there are those items in the catalogue that both define and defy that sound.

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What I remember about ECM's sound, at least in its mid- to late-1970s heyday, was that Eicher and his engineers made sticks on ride cymbals sound like knitting needles.

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What I remember about ECM's sound, at least in its mid- to late-1970s heyday, was that Eicher and his engineers made sticks on ride cymbals sound like knitting needles.

That's what I thought about the cymbal sound on most ECM records. It certainly is Eicher's aesthetics. He sometimes used reverb on the soloist in a way different from the rest of the ensemble, so his sound isn't natural, it's very artificial. I guess I'd like many ECM's a lot more if they were recorded in a more direct and less spacious manner. But I'm sure it sounds greaton a $ 20.000 system ... :rolleyes:

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But I'm sure it sounds greaton a $ 20.000 system ... :rolleyes:

ECM's sounded great on my £30 system in the mid-70s!

I can't see they were any more 'artificial' than Miles' early 70s recordings. I'm not even sure what an 'artificial' as opposed to 'natural' sound is. I came to music after Sergeant Pepper. The idea that recordings have to sound like a live performance has never been an issue for me.

Thinking back I was attracted to ECM records in the mid to late 70s for several reasons. The first couple I heard were Jarrett's and, apart from the music (which sounded so fresh and different after a diet of rock), was astonished by how good the pressings were. Even on the modest systems I could afford they didn't distort or suffer from excessive crackle and pop.

More importantly the next things I heard - from the likes of Ralph Towner and Eberhard Weber - fed my growing interest in jazz and improvised music at a time where jazz in the US sense - Bebop, Hard Bop, the 60s stuff) still sounded quite old-fashioned. Many ECM recordings seemed to have a connection with the rock world but without the heavy handed groove type approach of fusion. That appealled to someone like me coming from the direction of groups like the Soft Machine (of course I gradually learnt to enjoy the US jazz and lose that sense of listening to 'old music').

I was also attracted by the large number of European artists there - having come to rock music at a time when many British bands were trying to produce something distinctive from the US model it was very nice to find jazz doing the same thing.

And the covers had an impact too. THere was a real beauty about these things - I think I responded to the ECMs in the same way that many grew to love the Blue Note covers.

Edited by Bev Stapleton

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As to an ECM sound, I agree there is one, and I was fascinated to read Jim Sangrey's comment re: George Adams (my current avatar). I'd also add that ECM vinyl was quieter than most in my experience. Speaking of John Purcell, I noticed over at AAJ that a couple of Jack DeJohnette's lps featuring Purcell (Tin Can Alley, Inflation Blues) have yet to make it to cd! Both recommended highly.

Edited by Tom in RI

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I wonder if they will ever put onto CD the two Julian Priesters :- 'Polarization' and 'Love, Love'. Both are really great sessions, finding Priester in his 'Mwandishi' phase (especially so in 'Love, Love'). Sound is superb too, especially on the original German pressings ..... B)

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A friend of mine requested the Priester and Maupin and got a reply that the master tapes were in too bad a condition; but they were not completely out of consideration for CD reissue.

The high quality of the pressings is a fact nopt to be disputed. What I think annoys me the most is the "spaciousness" of some ECM's, putting the instruments at some distance from the listener. I simply prefer a more direct recording. They sounded good in their own way on my cheap hifi, too; maybe the difference is wether you come from a rock or a jazz or a classical background. I came to jazz very early and never was that much emotionally attuned to rock, that changes listening perspectives considerably.

My favourite ECM happen to be, in the long run:

Bennie Maupin, The Jewel In The Lotus

Stanley Cowell, Illusion Suite

Ralph Towner, Trios/Solos

John Abercormbie, Timeless

these had the longest lasting effect, musically and emotionally, on me. Not your typical ECM list, I'm afraid ..... and two of 'em are still awaiting their CD issue!

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I'd second Timeless as a favorite ECM release. It was the first ECM title I bought, Ithink they were typically $1 more than most other releases and I would guess that meant it cost my $6.00 or so new. Still sounds good. I seem to remember a thread at the old BNBB that mentioned a problem with Illusion Suite and that it was unlikely for cd reissue. I've since picked up a second copy as a result of that.

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The Priesters are great especially Love, Love. I tried selling a copy at the BN BBS for around $10 including shipping and was met with silence. Turned over $25 or so on e-bay after I took it down from the BN BBS due it not selling for over a month.

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$10 for 'Love, Love' is a bargain, shrugs. I'm amazed that no-one snapped it up ...

Edited by sidewinder

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I enjoy many, many ECM recordings. I can't say exactly what the technical issues are behind the sound, but I would say there is most definitely a relatively uniform sonic impact on these recordings, a house sound, which is remarkable given the diversity of the music being played and the range of musicians playing it (many of whom, incidently, were steeped in American blues and coming out of the African-American musical tradition, so I don't think that this is a European vs. American aesthetic issue at all).

So you have albums like Enrico Rava's PILGRIM AND THE STARS, Paul Motian's DANCE Jan Garbarek's TWELVE MOONS, Sam Rivers' CONTRASTS, the Metheny stuff, and Dave Holland's POINTS OF VIEW, for example, all having a relatively uniform label sound, and that sound remains distinctive across a range of listeners and listening systems. Look at the players included on these and other ECM albums, which includes people like Rivers and Julian Priester and Dewey Redman, and you have to realize there are other factors at play in the sound rather than an absence of players with blues featuring prominently in their musical development.

To me, it's really no different a situation than the Rudy Van Gelder classic era BN sound (albeit the RVG and Eicher signature sounds are ultimately very different of course)...sure, not every ECM album sounds exactly the same, and the music being played is varied, but the sonic impact is generally unmistakable and is probably down simply to the producer/engineer combo rather than anything more involved.

I wouldn't call the ECM sound cold, emotionally distant, anything negative at all, but there is pretty clearly to me a sense of space and physical distance between the musicians and the listeners, not what I'd call an intimate, living room, horn of the sax in your face kind of sound.

It's gorgeous and arresting most of the time, whatever you call it.

Edited by DrJ

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I can't say exactly what the technical issues are behind the sound, but I would say there is most definitely a relatively uniform sonic impact on these recordings, a house sound, which is remarkable given the diversity of the music being played and the range of musicians playing it (many of whom, incidently, were steeped in American blues and coming out of the African-American musical tradition, so I don't think that this is a European vs. American aesthetic issue at all).

Probably this is not very convincing, but there's something in the sound, a distinct vibe - to do with the spaciousness and, if you can call it that, its colour which has the quality of German Romantic painting. Even when the guys are blues related, the sound kind of sets the scenario. Something like this painting (but like I said probably not very convincing):

Caspar David Friedrich

Simon Weil

Edited by Simon Weil

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Now that's a nice comparison!

I'm quite a big ECM fan. Agree with what Dr J. and others have said. The variety of music possible within the "ECM-sound" is indeed exciting!

Some recent favorites of mine have been:

Enrico Rava Quartet (with Roswell Rudd)

Keith Jarrett - Whisper Not

Bley/Parker/Philipps - Sankt Gerold

Jack DeJohnette - Oneness

Michael Cain - Circa

ubu

Edited by king ubu

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Very interesting comparison, given Eicher's preference in cover paintings and photos, the Friedrich connection seems plausible. But the reproduction you have linked is very bad; I happen to have seen the original painting, which is much more impressive. Friedrich's colors are very intricate and hard tp reproduce on a computer screen. Check these for better samples:

monk.gif

friedrich104.jpg

friedrich148.jpg

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