Manfred Eicher has been successful with his ECM label not by constantly taking the pulse of the public and the record industry but by recording music he likes. That is an oversimplification, but not much of one. In the British newspaper The Guardian, Richard Williams has a piece about Eicher and his 40 years at the helm of the company he founded. Near the top of the article, he writes:
To its many admirers, ECM stands for a certain meditative, introspective approach to playing and listening. Its albums – about a thousand of them to date – are recorded and packaged with a deliberate refinement, once upsetting to those who concluded that Eicher had somehow squeezed the vitality from the jazz he professed to love, contaminating it by an association with his north European sensibility.
That argument seems to have been won.
Williams goes on to make the case, in part with quotes like this from Eicher:
“For me it’s very good to bring the demands of written music – phrasing, intonation, dynamics – to improvisational recording, where the approach is looser and more spontaneous. And vice versa, to bring some of the spirit of an improvised music session into a recording of written music, to get some empathy into it, so that it doesn’t become an academic-circle record. I’m trying to make an exchange, to bring one to the other.”
To read the whole thing, go here.