ECM Records All-Star Night :: The Village Gate, New York City, January 1976

The most beautiful sound next to silence comes to NYC. This “all-star night” of ECM-related performers is a delight, with some unique performances and collabs. Manfred Eicher’s esteemed label had been around since the late 1960s, but Keith Jarrett’s blockbuster surprise, The Koln Concert, brought ECM closer to the mainstream in 1975. Jarrett wasn’t there for this evening’s celebration, but the All-Stars shine bright without him.

Pat Metheny Group (ECM, 1978)

Guitarist Pat Metheny recently described music as a “carrot”, “I am still figuring out what the stick is,” he concluded to Ross Simonini in The Believer. That idea of constant investigation permeates Metheny’s nearly 50 year music career as well as his first s/t LP with his Pat Metheny Group.

Robin Kenyatta :: Girl From Martinique

Funky: the last descriptor one would ever reach for while describing an ECM record…but that’s exactly what this is! Released in 1970, Robin Kenyatta’s lone ECM effort finds the reedman employing the clavinet vamp of Wolfgang Dauner, swathes of reverb, electronics, and the rhythm section of bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Fred Braceful. Come for “Blues For Your Mama”, stick around for the rest.

John Surman :: Upon Reflection (ECM)

Here’s something to get lost in, the hypnotic world of British reedman John Surman, courtesy of his 1979 ECM effort, Upon Reflection. Recorded in Oslo, with production helmed by Manfred Eicher, the recording finds Surman in widescreen form experimenting with sequencers and synthesizers in addition to his duties working bass clarinet and baritone/soprano saxophone.

Wolfgang Muthspiel :: Angular Blues

There’s a particular clarity made possible by the trio format, something guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Brian Blade make clear on Angular Blues, Muthspiel’s fourth album as bandleader for the storied ECM label. This spacious arrangement makes for magnificent listening.

Deep Into Steve Tibbetts’ Life Of

On Steve Tibbetts’ Life Of, the new age trappings are gone, the subtle accompaniment of piano, “gong cycles,” gamelan influences (based on his travels and study in Bali and Nepal), the still-in-there-someplace Midwestern Kottke vibes, all synthesized so exquisitely. The secret sauce in his playing is partly due to his instrument; an old Martin D-12-20 12-string with worn down frets and dead strings. He describes it as having a “peculiar internal resonance, as though it has a small concert hall inside of it.”