ECM :rarum

Jazz Sides

Phases and Stages

ECM :rarum

The name says it all. Not ECM, "Edition of Contemporary Music," one of the most artistically independent labels in music. Rather, the name to remember here is :rarum, or better yet, its secondary title, Selected Recordings. Plumbed from ECM's deep and sonorous mostly-jazz vault, "Selected" refers to the redactor who matters most, the artist, as the series' eight acts -- Terje Rypdal, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Bobo Stenson, Bill Frisell, Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Keith Jarrett, and Jan Garbarek -- handpicked the "Recordings" for these compilations themselves. With a total of 10 CDs in this first phase alone, there's no way to detail all of them here, yet here are some highlights. The flagship of ECM's fleet, Keith Jarrett is duly represented by two desert island discs showcasing the multi-instrumentalist's compositional and performance gifts. In addition to trio jazz and solo piano, his :rarum volumes include crystalline cuts from "Book of Ways," his improvised work on the richly timbered clavichord, bridging Baroque melody and jazz immediacy. The music of Jan Garbarek, the other artist here with a 2-CD set, is packed with diverse and developmental representations of the Norwegian sax and flute player. His cuts span from onstage training with Keith Jarrett to 1990 collaborations with Pakistani master vocalist Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and Indian über drummer Zakir Hussain to a recent soul-lofting, cathedral-reverb pairing with European medieval vocal ensemble the Hilliard Ensemble. These rereleases also feature lesser-known, but not less-deserving artists like colorful introspective pianist Bobo Stenson. Six-string texturalist Terje Rypdal brings together surf-guitar influences and cinematic inclinations on his disc, while guitarist Bill Frisell offers airy, tuneful elegance on his. Thankfully the German ears of Manfred Eicher, ECM's founder and beating heart, were also tuned to the manifest artistic power of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. This historically important and melodically adventurous collective, including the masterful and sadly late air sculptor Lester Bowie, is well represented here, including Bowie's opening "Charlie M." As with any ECM endeavor, these collections are a study in holistic presentation, with matched, multihued packaging, new photos and artwork, and a 24-bit remastering. In exploring the many roads leading to and from these recordings, one takes a trip into the ECM's polychromatic and polymorphous catalog, because :rarum is to ECM as ECM is to the recording world: a breath of fresh, rarefied air, a distillation of pure quality.

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