In many ways, the last volume in the ECM Rarum series of artist-chosen retrospectives is also one of its finest. Jon Christensen is the label's drummer of drummers. He has played with virtually every major leader on the roster, and his fluid, enigmatic touch has graced ECM's most outstanding recordings. Christensen has the rapacious appetite of an Elvin Jones or Roy Haynes, but combines it with the wondrously light, dancer's touch of a Billy Higgins. The nine tracks here showcase Christensen's uncanny ability to adapt, color, and in some cases even drive the vision of a bandleader toward its flourish.
Polish composer and trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's career has been long and varied – from working with the legendary Krzysztof Komeda in the 1950s and '60s, to his own work that ranges form hard bop to electronic improvisation. A wonderful illustration of that principle is his association with Manfred Eicher's ECM label. This volume, in the excellent Rarum series, begins with Stanko's first date as a leader for ECM in 1975 on the album Balladyna. There are two selections from the set highlighting what was well-known at the time as his radical "predatory lyricism" method of composition and soloing.
“My time with ECM is a lifetime by now,” Terje Rypdal notes, as he embarks upon his fourth decade with the label that has documented his far-reaching achievements as both improviser and composer. For this anthology, Rypdal chose to focus on his groundbreaking electric guitar artistry, heard in settings ranging from symphony orchestra to the enlightened hard rock of the Chasers. “Music must have colours and freedom”, Rypdal once said, and his selection here lacks neither.
The object of ECM's handsomely Digipak-aged Rarum series is to have its roster of artists – past and present – select their favorite performances on the label. Which leads to the next question: Is the artist always the best judge of his or her own material? With that in mind, Keith Jarrett's choices for his two-CD set, the first volume of this series, are sure to be some of the most interesting, wide-ranging, surprising, and controversial of the whole lot. Listeners have had fair warning – ECM's previous Jarrett sampler, ECM Works, was also gleefully unpredictable – but Rarum, Vol. 1: Selected Recordings gives you a much better idea of the staggering variety of Jarrett's interests over a 21-year span than the earlier disc.
Pepl’s playing, as restless as it is welcoming, is difficult to pin down. This makes it all the more fascinating. He is the bloodstream of a vast organic landscape, where feelings of fracture share the roads with heavy travelers.
The Chicago-born master drummer hopes that his selection “will bring peace, warmth and joy to the listener”. The warm and joyful duo recording with Keith Jarrett that brought both DeJohnette and Jarrett to ECM in 1971 is reprised here - as are bright moments with Gateway, Mick Goodrick and a succession of Jack’s own bands – New Directions, Special Edition and Oneness, with soloists including Lester Bowie, David Murray and John Abercrombie.
The Rarum series on the ECM label is unique in that it issues "best-of" compilations picked by the artists themselves. While this can be a double-edged sword (oftentimes what an artist and his or her own fans enjoy are two different things), in this case it turns out to be a blessing. Metheny is obviously a fine judge of his own work, both from artistic and popular points of view. The selections are accompanied by an album-by-album overview by Metheny in the liner notes.