Horizons Touched: The Music Of ECM
Edited by Steve Lake and Paul Griffiths
Hardcover; 448 pages
After almost 40 years, over 1,000 albums and music by a roster that has included musicians of note from many other countries, it is about time that German label ECM Records, which began auspiciously in 1969 with a Mal Waldron Trio LP, has its story told. But like the label's vast catalogue of sessions, Horizons Touched is not a simple straightforward read.
The absolutely gorgeously-designed volume (which should come as a surprise to nobody) was edited by Paul Griffiths, noted music writer, and Steve Lake, liner note scribe for the label. Included are the requisite interviews with label founder Manfred Eicher as well as a partial discography and many reproductions of ECM album covers.
But what makes this tome really fascinating is its structure; rather than present a chronological account, essays by writers and musicians expound upon various topicsECM and European Jazz; Northbound: ECM and 'The Idea of North;' The ECM Cover, to name a few chapterswhich, taken as a whole provide some slantways insight into the label. The book is part history to be sure but also hindsight mission statement and ongoing stump speech.
Adding detail to these chapters are shorter essays by directly relevant musicians who have made the label the creative force it is todayplayers as obvious as pianist Keith Jarrett and saxophonist Jan Garbarek but also others drawn from the side of ECM that readers may know less about: the world of "new music," in which it has forged a significant reputation.
To call this a coffee table book would be to diminish it. Like the ECM records it discusses, style most certainly is buoyed by substance.