Wednesday, August 01, 2007

ECM celebrates 1,000th release with commemorative book

Labels don't come much more iconic than ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music), the jazz/classical/experimental-music label founded in 1969 by producer Manfred Eicher; its striking album covers of stark landscapes and elegant sans-serif typesetting are as instantly recognizable as the sublime sense of space Eicher ekes out of his musicians, no matter the genre. Among ECM's defining artists are Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Chick Corea, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, Nils Petter Molvaer, and Evan Parker — making up possibly the world's strongest, not to mention most diverse, label roster. (In an interview for The Wire magazine, even Ricardo Villalobos waxed ecstatic over the imprint, with a rotating selection of ECM discs playing in the background.)

For a label almost 40 years old, ECM is hardly resting on its laurels, though it has plenty: in January it was voted Label of the Year at the MIDEM Classical Awards, and last month the Jazz Journalists Association awarded it the same accolades. ECM recently issued its 1,000th release — although in Eicher's typically cryptic, anti-establishment approach, the label didn't assign the catalog number 2000 to any release. (ECM's first album, Mal Waldron's Free at Last, launched the label with a catalogue number of 1001; given intertwining release schedules, label spokeswoman Tina Pelikan says that it's impossible to say with any certainty which record constitutes the "official" thousandth release.)

Commemorating the label's long run, Granta recently published Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM, a comprehensive history of the label edited by Steve Lake and Paul Griffiths. The compendium includes interviews with Eicher, more than 20 specially commissioned essays, and contributions from more than 100 of the musicians, composers, designers, and engineers affiliated with the label over the years — all in a package as sumptuously designed as ECM's own output. Horizons Touched will be issued in the US in late September by Trafalgar Square Publishing. In the meantime, fans of the label can wear their appreciation on their sleeves, literally: The Daily Swarm reports that global fashion upstart Uniqlo (or the "Japanese Gap") is retailing a series of t-shirts featuring minimalist designs culled from ECM's catalog.




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