CULTURE

ECM joins up with new music label in Greece

When «The Koln Concert» was first released in 1975, Keith Jarrett was one of two men rejoicing and feeling justified for having created the most successful album of piano solos in the history of music. The other man was Manfred Eicher, Jarrett’s producer, who had established his record company, ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) a few years before that in 1969. A «difficult» album, the appeal of «The Koln Concert» can only be compared to that of a pop record – the album has so far sold nearly 3 million copies worldwide, out of which 50,000 have been sold in Greece. Born in Germany in 1943, Eicher founded ECM based on a vision of forming a different kind of record company, where the perfection of the sound would be complemented by each edition’s high sense of style. First the German producer earned the trust of the artists on the European jazz scene, who saw in him the ideal partner for state-of-the-art projects. Over the next few years, ECM opened up to artists in the United States and, gradually, to the rest of the world. In 1983, Eicher developed a sister label, ECM New Series. Eicher’s philosophy was and remained firm: High standards in sound on the one hand, as opposed to minimalist aesthetics on the CD covers. Eicher’s pioneering use of abstract scenery, landscapes, monochromes and all sorts of details largely contributed to the creation of ECM’s inimitable style. Leading artists make up the record company’s lost catalog, among them Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Jan Garbarek, Pat Metheny, Kim Kashkashian, Manu Katche, not to mention prominent Greek artists such as Eleni Karaindrou, Leonidas Kavakos, Savina Yannatou and Vassilis Tsabropoulos. On a recent visit to Athens, Eicher announced the beginning of a new collaboration, following a change of ownership at Lyra, the record company which until a few days ago represented ECM in Greece. During his stay, Eicher announced that ECM’s representation in Greece has now been passed on to Paraskevas Karasoulos and his record company Mikri Arktos. What do the two companies have in common? «A poetic view of the world,» says Karasoulos. «A family environment, their small size, which makes them flexible and effective, with different kinds of ideals compared to the multinational mentality. These are the elements that made Manfred Eicher choose us, even though he had received a number of proposals.» What kind of an audience does ECM enjoy in this country? «A large and passionate audience,» notes Karasoulos, «even though some people think otherwise. At the same time, ECM and Mikri Arktos show the smallest percentages of losses when compared to the larger companies in today’s blurry recording landscape. They are less affected by piracy, for instance, because our audiences are more aware and because the aesthetic approach at both companies is a combination of things. In Eicher’s case, he edits and oversees each and every ECM project.» New album Eicher’s visit had another angle: the recording of a new jazz improvisation album by pianist Vassilis Tsabropoulos. The good news is that all of ECM’s Greek artists are scheduled to release new albums this year. Eleni Karaindrou’s original score for «10,» a television series based on a novel by M. Karagatsis, will be released on February 4 (Karaindrou was the first Greek artist to work with Eicher), followed by yet another original score for Theo Angelopoulos’s upcoming «The Dust of Time.» Also part of ECM’s works in progress are new projects by Yannatou and Tsabropoulos. Possible collaborations between ECM and other Greek artists are also in the cards, following Karasoulos’s suggestion for Mikri Arktos not to act solely as distributor, but to develop more local projects.