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.

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.

Moose Loose :: Elgen er løs

Elgen er løs, it must be said, does not sound like ECM jazz. Instead what we have here is a blast of funky, fuzzed-out jazz psychedelia. The sinewy “Flytende Øye” could easily pass for a straight-up krautrock jam. Honestly, the whole thing hews closer to Soon Over Bamaluma than Return to Forever.

Light Pollution: The Roots of Ambient Jazz

As Aquarium Drunkard recently reported, ambient appears to be the shape of jazz to come. The newest new thing is cross-pollinating with electronics and minimalism, new age and drone. But even these currents have a history. We dove deep into our favorite space jazz of yesteryear, and put together a mixtape for your astral travelling pleasure.

Michael Naura Quartett :: Call

Hailed at his death in 2017 as the jazzpapst, the pope of German jazz, pianist Michael Naura once fronted the most popular post-bop jazz combo in early 60s Germany. After a serious illness brought his performing career to a halt, he took over editorial management of the state radio NDR’s jazz programming in 1971. There Naura had a front-row seat to the birth of fusion. Soon after, he returned to the studio at the head of a newly assembled electric jazz quartet. Their first release, Call, is a moody, shimmering wash of jeweled tones that sounded like nothing else in European jazz.

Transmissions :: Vijay Iyer

Pianist, composer, and bandleader Vijay Iyer joins us on Transmissions. He joins host Jason P. Woodbury to discuss his new ECM release, Compassion, his collaborations with Shahzad Ismaily and Arooj Aftab, reflect on the post-pandemic nebulousness in the air, discuss his mentors Greg Tate and Amiri Baraka, and much more.

Mal Waldron :: The Call

Everybody knows that Mal Waldron was the first artist released by Manfred Eicher’s fledgling label ECM. Less well known is that the veteran pianist also had the maiden release on Eicher’s experimental jazz imprint JAPO. That album, The Call, placed Waldron right at the heart of the burgeoning krautrock scene, teaming him up with affiliates of Amon Düül, Tangerine Dream and Et Cetera. The result was tripped-out, electrified space jazz of the very highest order.