Friday, November 05, 2010

Book review: ECM 40th Anniversary Catalog by Kenny Inaoka, et. al. ed.

ECM catalogECM catalog by 稲岡 邦彌

A labor of love for all concerned, especially editor Kenny Inaoka and contributor Nobu Stowe, this lavishly illustrated catalog traces all of the albums released by the ECM label both in Europe and Japan and also provides complete discographical information for each album in English and commentary in Japanese. The catalog portion of the book is particularly interesting because it has full color reproductions of all of the album covers. ECM is well known now for using austere stark photography on their releases, but it was interesting to see how this particular aesthetic choice evolved over time. Earlier albums experimented with a number of different layouts and designs (my favorite: Wolfgang Dauner's Output) before moving into the iconic imagery and design specifications that we see today. Beyond issues of art and design, the ECM label has always been committed to the exploration of progressive music in both the jazz and classical arenas. Opening with their first release, Mal Waldron’s Free at Last, the catalog demonstrates the label's commitment to recording the best of European and American jazz. Longstanding contracts with jazz luminaries like Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, and Keith Jarrett gave these musicians freedom to chase their individual sounds in a supportive atmosphere. ECM did not shy away from free or progressive music either, recording the likes of Circle, Dave Holland’s Conference of the Birds LP and albums by The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Don Cherry. This is a wonderful book to flip through, especially for fans of the label. Learning facts and nuggets of information about the records and discovering forgotten classics to search for is just half the fun. ECM 40th Anniversary Catalog - ECM Records

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