I’m currently embarking on a little project, for which I am compiling my “Top 100” ECM reviews to date. Whether you’ve been following my blog for five years or five days, I trust that you will have some favorite reviews of mine. It would be of great help to me if you could list those reviews that you feel are most effective at capturing the spirit of the music, as well as those that led you to new and meaningful discoveries, by leaving a comment to this post. Thank you!
Although I’ve reached a major milestone here at between sound and space, there’s little time to rest on my laurels. ECM will be releasing five albums stateside on June 2, so look out for those reviews soon, along with reviews of a few European-only releases, including Cyminology’s latest, Phoenix. I’m also preparing a small batch of articles and live reviews (among them, a stellar performance by Sheila Jordan with the Steve Kuhn Trio at Birdland) for All About Jazz. I will link to those as they appear.
Thanks to a new friend, I will soon be introducing a new “Rarities” category, diving into the most obscure ECM items on the planet. On a related note, I will be turning my attention back to the JAPO catalogue as well and hope to finish reviewing it within the year. In addition, I will be catching up on my reviews of ECM-related books, DVDs, and other such materials along the way.
To my dear readers, old and new:
Five years, three months, and 16 days ago—on 10 February 2010, to be exact—I began this blog with the intention of reviewing every proper ECM and ECM New Series album ever produced. Over 800,000 words and exactly 1330 posts later (1331 if you count this one), I can now lay claim to that goal in earnest. (For those keeping score, I’m following the U.S. release schedule. I have an additional review, specifically of Robin Williamson’s Trusting In The Rising Light, written but forthcoming elsewhere.) During that time, people have often asked me: What do you get out of this? To answer that would require just as many words as I’ve written for this project, and so I would humbly refer you to my past posts. Suffice it to say that ECM has given me more than any other label in a life already brimming with sounds, and that my reviews, such as they are, can only meet its contributions halfway in reciprocation.
On that note, there are many people without whom these words would not be appearing on your screen. First and foremost, I must acknowledge everyone at ECM. Their kindness and generosity have validated my endeavors here every step of the way, and their acknowledgment of my work has led not only to my traveling to Munich and even writing liner notes for an album (see Terje Rypdal’s Melodic Warrior), but more importantly has created a lifelong relationship of mutual respect. My dedication in reviewing them all—daunting as it may seem in retrospect—is nothing compared to that of releasing them all, and we must all be grateful to ECM for its incalculable enrichments. I particularly want to thank, in Munich, Manfred Eicher for trusting me to serve as an unofficial mouthpiece for the label’s oeuvre; Steve Lake for his wise words and counsel, and for always making the time to accommodate my many requests for out-of-print and otherwise hard-to-find releases and interviews; Guido Gorna for coming through with scans of other rare materials and digital booklets when physical CDs were nowhere to be found; Christian Stolberg for sharing his love for ECM during my pilgrimage to Germany; and Sun Chung for believing in me not only as a fan, but also as a human being. Although not in Munich, I also consider writer Paul Griffiths to be a major part of the ECM family, seeing as he has almost singlehandedly shaped the voice of the New Series imprint with his peerless CD booklet essays and reflections. I am proud to call him my friend and have benefited immeasurably from his critical mind and way of looking at listening. In New York City, I bow to ECM Records publicist Tina Pelikan, not just for what she has done for me—providing all the materials I ever needed for review, arranging press tickets for ECM concerts, etc.—but more importantly for the unfathomable work she has done to promote especially New Series artists in the U.S. Also in New York, my hat goes off to ECM Records USA label head Sarah Humphries, a rock of inspiration to musicians and fans alike for both shaping and maintaining the integrity of the label’s international profile.
I must also thank the many ECM artists whom I have befriended these past five years and their unwavering support of my writing. It’s always nerve-wracking for me to share my thoughts with the musicians about whom I’m opining, and I can count myself lucky for having met no resistance to my hyperbole-prone musings.
In addition, I am indebted to those who have supported my project from day one, especially Paul Geffen, whose ECM Discography is as an invaluable resource and whose generous promotion of my work continues to draw new support across social networks. And on the journalism side of things, I gratefully acknowledge music writer extraordinaire and fellow obsessive John Kelman, Michael Ricci of All About Jazz, Cliff Furnald of RootsWorld, and Steve Layton of Sequenza 21 for providing alternative venues to my ramblings. There are countless more of you in this vein whom I will never forget. You know who you are.
Of course, no such acknowledgments list would be complete without my deepest, most heartfelt expression of faith in all of you who have read my words—some from the very beginning—with such enthusiasm and genuine interest. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you all in various capacities and look forward to strengthening these new friendships as our shared love for ECM brings us closer. It’s for your eyes as much as for my soul that I do what I do on between sound and space.
I feel it only appropriate that my last review before reaching this point should have been of Keith Jarrett’s Creation. It says everything and more about how ECM has changed the recorded landscape and the musicians who so tirelessly work its soil. And because, fortunately, ECM shows no signs of slowing down (the label is, in fact, releasing more than ever), I will continue tilling right alongside them so long as there is music to be heard and those of us around to hear it.
Some stats from WordPress regarding between sound and space for 2014. I had 240,000 views (nearly 800,000 to date). I wrote 120,000 words (700,000 to date). My busiest day was April 17, with 1251 views. My most popular reviews were diverse, including a 2011 piece on actor Bruno Ganz’s spoken word recordings for ECM. Other popular posts were my reviews of François Couturier’s Un jour si blanc and Ghazal’s The Rain.
I’m particularly grateful to Nate Chinen at The New York Times for including David Virelles’s Mbókò on his Top Albums of 2014 list, and for kindly linking to my review of said album. I’m also deeply honored to have had a blog post quoted in Ellen Johnson’s Jazz Child: A Portrait of Sheila Jordan. Seeing my words in print was an intense validation of what I do here.
In 2015, I plan to reach my goal of reviewing every ECM and ECM New Series album ever released. It’s been a five-year journey, and I am humbled by all who have followed me this far.
A few side notes:
- Over at All About Jazz, for whom I’ve been writing with greater frequency as I approach the goal of this blog, my most popular article was a critical analysis of the film Whiplash.
- For RootsWorld online magazine I was proudest of my piece on Marc Sinan’s Hasretim – Journey to Anatolia.
- And finally I was grateful for the opportunity to expound my love for ECM New Series in an extended piece for Sequenza 21 celebrating the imprint’s 30th anniversary.
Above all, I feel blessed to be surrounded by so much significant music and to be able to squeeze in the time between academic and family commitments to share my passion with others in kind. Thank you for reading, and never stop listening.
As of my last post (Sinikka Langeland’s Starflowers), I’ve reviewed ECM’s first 1000 releases. Add to this the scattered others from later on in the catalogue, and that leaves only 144 albums before I “catch up” with the label’s unflinching rate of release. On July 17, I’ll be leaving for a four-week trip to Japan, during which time I will abstain from reviewing, immersed as I’ll be in linguistic and academic research in Kyoto. I’m sure you’ll find enough to mull over in the interim 😉
I’m beyond grateful to all of my readers, transient and constant alike, who’ve given me the resolve to keep this project going. Synchronicity is within reach!
For those of you interested in the academic side of my life, I’ve just published my first journal article, “More than Meets the Eye: Blindness as Alterity in a Japanese Guide-Dog Narrative,” which you can access online here. And for anyone who missed it, I’ve reviewed my good friend Yongwoo Lee’s fascinating dissertation on Korean popular music here.
I began this humble blog four years ago to the day. It has since grown into an obsession, and I cannot thank you all enough for keeping up. With less than 200 albums to go, my goal is within reach. Who’s with me?