The independent record label ECM – Edition of Contemporary Music – was founded by producer Manfred Eicher in 1969, and to date has issued more than 1700 albums spanning many idioms.
The special qualities of what began as a small cultural enterprise were soon recognised. In 1972, in its first article on ECM, Der Spiegel ran a report on a twenty-nine-year-old producer in Munich who was increasingly of interest to high-profile musicians in the United States. According to Der Spiegel, this was because ECM was now releasing the ‘best jazz recordings’ – ‘the gold standard for sound, presence and pressing’. At that point, the Munich label had only been in existence for two-and-a-half years. Manfred Eicher, born in Lindau, Germany, had studied double bass in Berlin. Having soon discovered his love for the music of artists such as Bill Evans, Paul Bley, Miles Davis and his bassist Paul Chambers, he became intensely preoccupied with jazz. As a production assistant at Deutsche Grammophon he had learnt what it was to strive for the highest standards in recordings of classical music. And he now started to record improvised music with the same precision and focus.
ECM recordings are often described as having a transparent sound that is rich in overtones. But there is no one-size-fits-all ‘ECM sound’. Each recording is attuned to the sound of the players and singers, not vice versa.
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