On 10 February 2010, I began this blog with the goal of reviewing every album issued by ECM Records proper and its New Series imprint. Four years ago, I achieved said goal. Within hours of announcing this milestone, I was approached by Raúl Zea of Rey Naranjo, a publisher of fine books based in Bogotá, Colombia. As it turned out, Raúl was a huge ECM fan and had been reading my blog from almost the beginning. His proposal: To publish a book of selected reviews. My answer: When can we start? Fast-forward to 27 April 2019, and I found myself boarding an airplane bound for the annual Bogotá International Book Fair (a.k.a. FILBo) to hold the volume in my hands at last and present its contents to fans and newcomers alike over the course of five days.
As the book evolved into its present form as Between Sound and Space: An ECM Records Primer, my editors and I felt it necessary to marshal the reviews to speak to a variety of audiences. True to its designation as a “primer,” it is first and foremost intended as a doorway into the label’s manifold wonders. For that reason, inclusion of such classics as The Köln Concertwas absolutely necessary. On the other hand, I wanted to highlight albums that even seasoned listeners might have overlooked. Out of those two extremes emerged 100 specially curated and recrafted essays, rounded out by a smattering of personal favorites: a journey through ECM’s ongoing history that I hope will inspire readers in new directions of listening.
Upon arriving at my hotel, I was draped with my FILBo credentials and guided to my publisher’s table. Yet before I could even marvel at a product years in the making, I had to take in the sheer scale of the fair and its throngs of passionate attendees—many of whom, I would discover the next morning, would be lined down the block three hours before opening time.
As I waded through cliques of voracious readers, I at last came face to face with the editor who had made this trip a reality, and with the work of art he and the Rey Naranjo team had labored to print in time for this event.
After a round of introductions, and a sampling of local cuisine (including my first bowl of ajiaco), I was ready to succumb to the toll of travel knowing that my love letter to a life-changing record label now had a life of its own.
The next few days were a promotional whirlwind, including two interviews for Colombian radio, two book talks, an interview with The Bogotá Post, and a video shoot at my publisher’s bookstore, Santo & Seña, for an upcoming crowdfunding campaign in anticipation of the book’s international version (to be released in early 2020). While it was exciting to be the center of so much attention, I also knew that none of it would have taken place without the vital music that had brought me into that center to begin with. Being able to share my knowledge with ECM fans in another country felt like the first step toward a larger conversation that I can only hope my book will provoke and sustain in the future.
Before leaving the city, I rode a cable car to the top of Monserrate, where Bogotá’s wider embrace became at last apparent.
The long stairway to the very top was a sobering reminder that no journey is possible without the steps required to bring its destination into view. And, like the gradations of mountain and concrete that bid me farewell, nothing we do is possible without the input of untold lives, laboring through cycles of sun and moon until our blessings are indistinguishable from all others.
For those blessings, I would especially like to thank Raúl Zea and John Naranjo for believing in me from day one, Andrea Salgado for the gracious invitation, Aurélie Radé for navigating the complexities of airline politics, Dulce María Ramos for coordinating interviews and rushing me to every venue on time, Luisa Martínez for her gentle kindness (and the flower), Guillermo Concha and Liladhar Pendse for proving that strangers should never stay that way for long, Juan Carlos Garay and David Roa for enlightening conversations in front of vastly different audiences, and the interpreters, including Ale Bernal, who rendered those conversations into Spanish under tight circumstances.