Imprint is the second ECM album by Germany’s Julia Hülsmann Trio, and a follow-up to the critically-lauded The End of a Summer, the group’s ECM debut released in 2008. Both as a player and writer Hülsmann conveys a sense of poetic compression. Her themes stand out in stark relief, as if stamped or printed into the surrounding improvisation, and are highly memorable. She says: “My music is all about melody. It’s that simple”
Master drummer, composer, and bandleader Paul Motian's volume in ECM's fine Rarum series is a tough one to reconcile. It's not that it is in any way disappointing – far from it. It's more a case of what to choose and how an artist's choices are made when there is so much material to choose from. Motian has played as a sideman and as a leader for the label since he was first approached by Manfred Eicher in 1972. The nine tunes here range from that year's Conception Vessel, his debut album as a leader with Keith Jarrett, to a 1985 Paul Bley Quartet date on which he guested along with Bill Frisell and John Surman. While Motian did appear on the ECM label during the 1990s, none of that material was chosen. The 13 years that are reflected here are rich in not only musical diversity but cultural acumen.
The Eberhard Weber volume in the ECM :Rarum series is another one of those revelatory spotlights on a player and composer whose entire identity has been shaped by his association with the label. The revelation is that Weber's bass playing and rainbow sense of harmonic interplay has in turn been perhaps more integral to shaping the sound and identity of the label. This collection of ten tracks showcases Weber's contributions as the leader of his fine, longstanding band Colours, his solo projects, and his contributions to the recordings of Gary Burton, Pat Metheny (who could forget his elegant, expressionistic bass playing on Watercolors, Metheny's sophomore ECM effort?), Ralph Towner, and Jan Garbarek.
Egberto Gismonti's volume in the excellent ECM Rarum series contains material from seven of his ten albums for the label as a leader, none from the 124 recordings on his own label distributed by ECM. It hardly matters. Gismonti is the most enigmatic and mercurial of the artists on the roster. Being from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he has made a life of delving deep into his country's magical musical framework that draws into itself and expands upon the many cultures that have intersected with it from Africa, Europe, and the United States. The music contained here finds Gismonti, ever the shamanistic gadfly conjurer, singing and playing no less than eight instruments, from percussion to guitars to flutes.
Bassist Arild Andersen may not be one of ECM's best-known bandleaders (to Americans, that is), but that hasn't stopped him from amassing an impressive catalog as one of the label's senior statesmen. Andersen himself comments in the liner notes at how fortunate and surprised he was when looking back over his catalog and realizing how many younger players graced his sides. The evidence, however, is that Andersen is too humble: his guidance is like a beacon in bringing the best out of many who would become leaders in their own right. A fine example is on "Vanilje," which opens the album and comes from the Masqualero album. Here Andersen, Jon Balke, and drummer Jon Christensen host two stunning players on the front line, young saxophonist Tore Brunborg and a fresh-faced Nils Petter Molvaer on trumpet.
This reissue of the album recorded in 1977 is a landmark of the careers of Gismonti and percussionist Naná Vasconcelos, his only accompanist here. Recorded in only three days, the album's concept is based on the history shared by both musicians, according to Gismonti: two boys wandering through a dense, humid forest, full of insects and animals, keeping a 180-feet distance from each other. The album received several international awards, in England, U.S., Germany, and Brazil. It also, changed both artist's lives: Naná immediately became a disputed international artist, touring worldwide; Egberto returned to Brazil, decided to research Amazon folklore, which would be reflected in his later work.
Alone among the first eight albums of the ECM Rarum series, the Art Ensemble of Chicago edition is a group effort, with surviving members Roscoe Mitchell, Malachi Favors, and Don Moye offering only a brief greeting in the booklet. There were only four Art Ensemble of Chicago albums over only a half-dozen years (1978-1984), so listeners get two tracks from the initial offering, "Nice Guys" and "Full Force," and one apiece from Urban Bushmen and The Third Decade.