“Listening to my ECM recordings has been an adventure into some of my most memorable musical past,” says Chick Corea, whose anthology features the enormously influential Return To Forever band, the enduring piano/vibes duo with Gary Burton, and the Corea, Miroslav Vitous, Roy Haynes trio, another long-running combination, heard with spontaneous improvisations as well as spirited renditions of Thelonious Monk tunes and standards.
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.
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.
Jan Garbarek's music can be summed up in one simple word: meditation. Sure, the term is loaded with overtones, both good and bad. But do not confuse meditation with mindlessness: they are polar opposites. Garbarek's thirty years with ECM (as a leader and collaborator) have yielded hundreds of melodies which lead to an infinitely light state of inner peace. It's hard to imagine a more positive statement for a saxophone player who long ago decided to forsake flash-and-bang for "simpler" music with understated spiritual energy. And this two-disc set does Garbarek justice. Each disc runs in chronological order from about 1975 through 1995.
Bill Frisell has made 14 sideman appearances on ECM but only three records as a leader on the label. His Rarum collection spans the 1980s, highlighting his earlier years. Paul Motian figures prominently in this story, as leader, composer, and sideman; "Mandeville," the leadoff track, is from 1981's Psalm, featuring Motian and Frisell with Joe Lovano, Billy Drewes, and Ed Schuller. Two more Motian tracks follow, then Jan Garbarek's "Singsong," which finds Frisell wailing. Tracks five through 11 feature Frisell as leader and composer: First there's the title cut from his 1982 debut, In Line, a multi-tracked acoustic piece, then three selections from Rambler and three more from Lookout for Hope.
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.
Vibraphone innovator Gary Burton recorded a wealth of material for ECM during his 15 year tenure with the label. His anthology highlights the exceptional groups he led in the 1970s and 1980s. Burton’s quartets, quintets, and sextets introduced many remarkable players to a wider public, and these selections feature inspired performances by Pat Metheny, Mick Goodrick, Steve Swallow, Eberhard Weber, Bob Moses, Makoto Ozone and more. “We toured up to two hundred days a year,” Burton recalls. “The recordings we made were snapshots of the evolution of my working bands during this highly productive period.”