Musical backdrop to "ECM: A Cultural Archeology," a recently-concluded, yearlong exhibit in Munich, this lovingly curated 6-CD set provides a primer to recent Grammy-nominee Manfred Eicher's extraordinary label of international tastes and pristine aesthetics. While the German imprint, founded 1969, remains a stronghold of avant-garde jazz, its classical curating dominates this diverse collection. Spanning from Dallas-born clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre in the Sixties and an excerpt from Steve Reich's 1978 opus, Music for 18 Musicians, to trumpeter Ralph Alessi's 2013 album Baida, ECM's wintery ambience dominates here, brilliantly juxtaposing seemingly incongruent pieces into beautiful, at times abstract soundscapes. One seamless transition pairs tunes by Norwegian pianist Christian Wallumrød, replete with chamber ensemble, into the lovely "Song for Ania" by Polish jazz trumpeter Tomasz Sta´nko. Individual highlights include Old and New Dreams' gorgeous interpretation of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman;" "Carta de Amor" from the trio of Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, Brazilian guitarist-pianist Egberto Gismonti, and American bassist Charlie Haden; and pianist Steve Kuhn's sublime reading of John Coltrane's "Spiritual." Sublime is a perfect way to describe Selected Signs III – VIII.
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