Jazz at 100 Hour 87: Jazz From Europe on ECM

Keith Jarrett

Previously in this series we have surveyed record labels as representative of the jazz trends in their times – for example bebop on Dial in the 40s, mainstream jazz on Verve in the 50s, and hard bop on Blue Note in the 60s. The German label ECM can be seen as representative of a major trend of the 70s. Joachim-Ernst Behrendt writes that this is the decade when “European jazz found itself.” The early recordings on the ECM label in this hour of Jazz at 100.

In the 1970s, “…for the first time the centre of gravity seemed to tilt away from the United States and towards Europe. For a start, there was a substantial population of American musicians living in exile in France and Scandinavia. During the course of the decade, the impetus of jazz recording switched … from large American labels to independent European imprints. ECM was established in 1969, the Black Saint/Soul Note axis followed in Italy.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook
European Artists.

“ECM would … stand out as the first major jazz label to rely heavily on non-U.S. talent, and this commitment to broadening the geographical base of the music would prove as important as the distinctive sounds associated with the company’s imprimatur. These recordings introduced many jazz fans to the work of Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti, Enrico Rava, Naná Vasconcelos, Tomasz Stañko, Terje Rypdal, Eberhard Weber, John Surman, and Kenny Wheeler, among others, most of them little known on the global jazz stage before Eicher sponsored them.” – Ted Gioia

Enrico Rava – The Pilgrim And The Stars.
“… when [Enrico] Rava went to ECM for the first of three fine albums … the label’s pristine sound met the deceptive strength of the trumpet-playing perfectly and delivered a modern classic … The central drama of the recording is the interweaving of trumpet and guitar. Abercrombie rarely pushed out quite so far and some of his lines are stretched to cracking.”– Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Parks. Enrico Rava Quartet
(Enrico Rava-tp, John Abercrombie-g, Palle Danielsson-b, Jon Christensen-d). From The Pilgrim And The Stars. 6/1975

Surprise Hotel. Enrico Rava Quartet
(Enrico Rava-tp, John Abercrombie-g, Palle Danielsson-b, Jon Christensen-d). From The Pilgrim And The Stars. 6/1975

Eberhard Weber – Yellow Fields.
“Weber’s masterpiece is essentially a period piece which nevertheless still seems modern. The sound of it seems almost absurdly opulent: bass passages and swimming keyboard textures that reverberate from the speakers, chords that seem to hum with huge overtones. The keyboard textures in particular are of a kind that will probably never be heard on record again. But there’s little prolixity or meandering in this music. Weber builds keenly around riffs and rhythmical figures, and solos … are perfectly ensconced within the sound-field.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Touch. Eberhard Weber Quartet
(Charlie Mariano-ss/shenai/nagaswaram, Rainer Bruninghaus-key, Eberhard Weber-b, Jon Christensen-d). From Yellow Fields. 9/1975

Jan Garbarek – Dis.
“Garbarek is one of the best-known, and certainly one of the most easily identified, improvising musicians in the world. His high, keening saxophone, with the familiar ECM reverb, has acquired an international resonance and has exerted as strong an influence on a generation of horn-players as Michael Brecker’s … Few artists of his stature have stayed loyal to a single record label throughout their careers, to their mutual benefit … Garbarek and Ralph Towner … created an album that for some sums up the chimerical ‘ECM sound’.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Krusning. Jan Garbarek – Ralph Towner Duo
(Jan Garbarek-ts, Ralph Towner-g). From Dis. 12/1976

American Artists and Expats.
“…[T]he suposedly Eurocentric ECM label proved adept at finding talent that the major U.S. labels were ignoring in their own homeland, both American-born artists ([Keith] Jarrett, [Jack] DeJohnette, [Gary] Burton, [Pat] Metheny) as well as expats such as bassist Dave Holland, originally from Britain but a U.S. resident for most of his career. Holland’s releases stand out for their vital, cliché-free music making, – Ted Gioia

Dave Holland – Conference of the Birds.
“Holland has been spoken of in the same breath as the legendary Scott LaFaro: he shares the American’s bright, exact intonation, incredible hand-speed and utter musicality. It isn’t fanciful to suggest that he is the finest bassist/composer since Charles Mingus … If he had never made another record as leader, Conference Of The Birds would still stand out as a quiet masterpiece” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Conference Of The Birds. David Holland Quartet
(Sam Rivers-reed/fl, Anthony Braxton-reeds/fl, Dave Holland-b, Barry Altschul-per/mar). From Conference Of The Birds. 11/30/1972

Gary Burton – Hotel Hello.
“Almost all the compositions are Swallow’s, from the high-point of his creativity as a composer. They are all pitched around the same cycle of tones, but the variations and angles of approach are remarkable for their avoidance of familiar ground. The title-track and ‘Sweeping Up’ are substantial performances, each with an almost cinematic quality, as if some quietly dramatic scena had been compressed into five-minute span.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Hotel Hello. Gary Burton – Steve Swallow Duo
(Gary Burton-vib, org, mar, Steve Swallow-b/p). From Hotel Hello. 5/13/1974

David Lieberman – Drum Ode.
Drum Ode is one of the classics of the early ECM catalogue. Where many recordings of this kind are simply loose confederations of session-players, Liebman was wise enough to recruit percussionists who were already or would be shortly stars in their own right: [Bob] Moses, [Colin] Walcott, [Badal] Roy, {Barry] Altschul would all be significant recording stars. The result is an album with an almost orchestral unity and complexity.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Your Lady. Dave Liebman
(Dave Liebman-ss/ts/afl, Richard Beirach-p, John Abercrombie-g, Gene Perla-b, Bob Moses-d, Jeff Williams-d, Patato Valdez-cga, Ray Armando-bgo, Badal Roy-tabla, Colin Walcott-tabla, Barry Altschul-per, Steve Sattan-per, Eleana Steinberg-voc). From Drum Ode. 5/1974

Paul Motian – Tribute.
“The first ECM records were startling when they first appeared, and they have retained their vigour and freshness … This 1974 album is a small classic … the twinned guitars … are a key component and, given the prominence of Bill Frisell in later years, it’s interesting to note his early use of it … The leader is seldom far from the centre of things, creating a pulse even when not playing strict time, but always playing with grace and composure, even when the mood is urgent.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Victoria. Paul Motian Quintet
(Carlos Ward-as, Sam Brown-g, Paul Metzke-g, Charlie Haden-b, Paul Motian-per). From Tribute. 5/1974

Pat Metheny – Bright Size Life.
“In jazz, the emphasis on song had decreased enormously since the 1940s. Bebop turned the music’s preeminent convention toward new harmonies and variations on well-worn changes. Various kinds of jazz in the 1950s and 1960s prized qualities that lay on the intellectual side: texture, repetition, density, multipart form, rhythmic and melodic looseness, “classical” instrumentation. Serious ballad writing had disappeared, for the most part, and the dominant language for jazz guitarist was blues (via West Montgomery) and, in smatterings, bebop (via Kenny Burrell); if Jim Hall paved the way for a number of possible redirections, Metheny seized the opportunity and ran. He brought back ballads, writing poignant, romantic songs – on Bright Size Life, just about every song falls into that category – with impressive harmony; his solos were notey.” – Ben Ratliff

“One of the most noteworthy of [Jaco Pastorius’s] sideman appearances came on Bright Size Life, a 1976 release that represented the debut leader date for guitarist Pat Metheny. Metheny arrived on the scene at a late stage in the jazz-rock fusion movement, and his career can be seen both as a final culmination of this movement’s potential and also as a sign of the jazz world’s desire to move beyond the constraining formulas of the genre.” – Ted Gioia

Bright Size Life. Pat Metheny Trio
(Pat Metheny-g, Jaco Pastorius-b, Bob Moses-d). From Bright Size Life. 12/1975

Keith Jarrett – The Koln Concert.
Joachim-Ernst Berendt identifies one major movement in 1970s jazz as “A trend toward European romanticist chamber music, an ‘aestheticization‘ of jazz, so to speak. Suddenly, large numbers of unaccompanied solos and duos appeared on the scene, often without any rhythm section—no drums, no bass. Much that had been considered essential to jazz was dispensed with: explosive power, hardness, tremendous expressiveness, intensity, ecstasy, and no fear of “ugliness.” As an American critic put it, jazz was being “beautified”—or as we just put it, “aestheticized.”

The most famous example of this trend toward unaccompanied solos is Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert. The unexpected but significant commercial success of this record provided the cash flow that pushed the struggling young label toward solvency and funded a score of much more exploratory releases. “The Köln Concert is not just that rare thing, a best-selling jazz record, but that even rarer one, a record whose immense popularity isn’t occasioned by a watered-down or compromised performance.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook
Part II C. Keith Jarrett Solo
(Keith Jarrett-p). From The Koln Concert. 1/24/1975

Under Manfred Eicher leadership, ECM has released a steady stream of music since 1961, finding its pace at 25 – 35 projects a year for the past 40 years. The music continues to have a characteristic ambient sound, high recording quality and artists who defy category. The label continues to record both European and American artists; having done much to create collaborations across boundaries that have enriched the music now for decades.

Jazz-rock fusion was a powerful force in the music in the early seventies, but noticeably began to run out of steam mid-decade. European influences began to gain traction as the decade progressed as represented by the rise of ECM. American acoustic jazz musicians, who seemed to be taken for granted, continued to produce fine music and garnered renewed interest as the decade ended. In the next hour, we will listen to representative 1970s acoustic jazz from McCoy Tyner, Woody Shaw and Sonny Rollins followed by two 1977 releases that forecasted the robust return of mainstream jazz as the decade ended – Scott Hamilton’s debut and Herbie Hancock’s VSOP.

Recordings.
Enrico Rava. The Pilgrim And The Stars. ECM 1063
Eberhard Weber. Yellow Fields. ECM 1066
Jan Garbarek. Dis. ECM 1093
Dave Holland. Conference Of The Birds. ECM 1027
Gary Burton. Hotel Hello. ECM 1055
Dave Liebman. Your Lady. ECM 1046
Paul Motian. Tribute. ECM 1048
Pat Metheny. Bright Size Life. ECM 1073
Keith Jarrett. The Koln Concert. ECM 1064/65

Resources.
Berendt, Joachim-Ernst. The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to the 21st Century (pp. 33-34). Chicago Review Press. Kindle Edition.
The Styles of Jazz: The Seventies
Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz (pp. 328-329). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Chapter 8. Freedom and Fusion
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Enrico Rava. The Pilgrim And The Stars
Eberhard Weber. Yellow Fields
Jan Garbarek. Dis
Dave Holland. Conference Of The Birds
Gary Burton. Hotel Hello
Dave Liebman. Your Lady
Paul Motian. Tribute
Pat Metheny. Bright Size Life
Keith Jarrett. The Koln Concert
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
85. Pat Metheny: Bright Size Life (1975)

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