Story of success against the odds ends fest

This year’s third edition of the Muse Festival, an event focused on jazz and ethnic music styles with a willingness to evolve, concludes tonight, after several days of shows, with both music and words. The event’s finale, a concert by local jazz musician Giorgos Kontrafouris and his trio at 10 p.m., will be preceded by a presentation, three hours earlier, of a recent publication, «Horizons Touched» (Granta Books), which documents the seemingly infinite story of the revered record label ECM. The title, which features 20 essays on ECM by prominent artists, including Jean-Luc Goddard, Arvo Part and Keith Jarrett, interviews with ECM musicians, as well as previously unpublished photographs, will be presented by its co-editor, Steve Lake, a music journalist whose career includes lengthy tenures at ECM as an all-round contributor and producer of approximately 40 of the label’s releases. A story of success achieved against the odds, ECM was founded by Manfred Eicher in 1969, a difficult year for jazz as indicated by the period’s declining number of shows, recording opportunities and audiences. The jazz scene was overshadowed by the dominance of rock music, which was then flourishing as a rapidly evolving musical style. Going against the grain, Eicher, a classically trained musician with a penchant for jazz, set up his label intending to raise the quality of jazz recordings to standards enjoyed in the classical music domain. Jazz records at the time sounded poor, Eicher would contend, «as though recorded underwater.» His endeavor to raise the standards has produced about 1,000 ECM releases in jazz, classical music and folk by artists scattered around the world. Eicher has been at the helm, as producer, for the overwhelming majority of these. Besides the high-caliber recordings of the label, now synonymous with musical excellence, ECM has played a huge role in helping nurture the diversification of jazz music, which eventually took the style into what are nowadays being labeled «ethnic» and «world music» fields. «My overall impression of their catalog was one of serious intent coupled with openness,» noted Lake in a recent interview, recalling his initial attraction to ECM. «Quality was obviously important to them, but they weren’t following one single artistic or aesthetic line,» he continued. ECM stands as a beacon of excellence combined with a distinctive identity. Highlighting this, Eicher’s label has bred ECM enthusiasts around the world, including George Miller, the editorial director at Granta Books, publisher of the aptly titled «Horizons Touched,» an immaculate 439-page edition whose details are bound to fascinate both the converted and newer arrivals seeking guidance amid the label’s big world. It includes releases by Greek artists, including Eleni Karaindrou, whose music – primarily soundtracks for films by Theo Angelopoulos, a Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes festival – has earned her international fame, as well as vocal artist Savina Yannatou with her backing band, Primavera en Salonico, today a regular on the world music circuit. Muse Festival, tonight, Ianos, 24 Stadiou St.