ECM - ambassadors of Norwegian jazz

The German record label ECM (European Contemporay Music) has since its beginning in 1969 always had a strong presence of Norwegian jazz musicians on their recordings. The ":rarum - Selected Recordings" series present a chance to catch up on the ongoing collaboration between ECM and norwegian jazz musicians.

Jon Christensen, 1983 (Foto: Jazzbasen.no)

By Kyrre Tromm Lindvig

Manfred Eicher, founder and CEO of ECM, started working with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek at the very end of the 60s, releasing his "African Pepperbird" as one of the first records on ECM in 1971. 35 years later, a short glimpse at ECM history shows that Eicher and Norwegian jazz have been all but inseparable ever since.

Among with Garbarek, other notable Norwegian artists such as guitarist Terje Rypdal, bassist Arild Andersen, guitarist Jacob Young, pianist Tord Gustavsen, trumpet player Nils Petter Molvær and many more have released records under their own name on ECM.

In addition, many of Norway's best jazz musicians have been featured on other recordings with European and American artists, among them jazz drummer Jon Christensen, Eivind Aarset, Frode Alnæs Jon Balke, Audun Kleive, Tore Brunborg, Stian Carstensen, Bjørn Kjellemyr and lots more.

Now there is a chance to catch up with the ongoing love-affair between ECM and Norwegian jazz: The :rarum series, a project which gave many prominent ECM musicians the possibility to select their own favourite recordings for release.

The first records in this series were released in 2002, and consisted of selected recordings of eight of most well known ECM artists, among them Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal. Rune Kristoffersen at Grappa (who is the distributor of ECM in Norway), especially emphasised that the breadth these recordings display an important of jazzhistory. - ECM has almost single-handedly developed what we today call European jazz, Kristoffersen said to the Norwegian magazine "FaroJournalen".

It is also important to note the strong presence of Norwegian musicians on the records of many of the other records in the first :rarum-series, especially on the selections made by Keith Jarrett and Bobo Stenson.

The beginning of 2004 saw the release of the second series of :rarum-records. The most important distinction from the first series was that ECM musicians that have never made a record as a leader also were given the possibility to take part in the project. Thanks to this, we can now gain further insight in Norwegian jazzdrummer Jon Christensen's vast production, who is featured on a ":rarum" record under his own name.

- An unceasingly brilliant contributor to, we believe, more ECM studio recordings than any other musician, Jon Christensen finally has an album released under his own name. Band-leading has seldom been the great Oslo drummer's priority but in his selection of tracks for his :rarum disc, there is no mistaking the way in which Christensen has driven some mighty ensembles from his seat at the back, ECM writes on their website www.ecmrecords.de.

The record features Christensen playing with Keith Jarrett's "Belonging" group, Terje Rypdal's "Waves" band, the Bobo Stenson Trio, Ralph Towner, among others.

The other Norwegian musician to have his own :rarum record in this series, is bassist Arild Andersen, one of the countries most respected jazzmusicians, with several albums as a leader under his belt.

- Arild Andersen's compilation takes a zigzag path through his discography highlighting his own groups, his soloistic brilliance as a bassist and his perceptiveness in recognizing talent in bud, ECM claims.

All records in the two :rarum series have been digitally remastered, and further releases are in the planning.

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