In many ways, the last volume in the ECM Rarum series of artist-chosen retrospectives is also one of its finest. Jon Christensen is the label's drummer of drummers. He has played with virtually every major leader on the roster, and his fluid, enigmatic touch has graced ECM's most outstanding recordings. Christensen has the rapacious appetite of an Elvin Jones or Roy Haynes, but combines it with the wondrously light, dancer's touch of a Billy Higgins. The nine tracks here showcase Christensen's uncanny ability to adapt, color, and in some cases even drive the vision of a bandleader toward its flourish.
Pepl’s playing, as restless as it is welcoming, is difficult to pin down. This makes it all the more fascinating. He is the bloodstream of a vast organic landscape, where feelings of fracture share the roads with heavy travelers.
“Listening to my ECM recordings has been an adventure into some of my most memorable musical past,” says Chick Corea, whose anthology features the enormously influential Return To Forever band, the enduring piano/vibes duo with Gary Burton, and the Corea, Miroslav Vitous, Roy Haynes trio, another long-running combination, heard with spontaneous improvisations as well as spirited renditions of Thelonious Monk tunes and standards.
This CD features the drumming of ECM legend drummer Jon Christesen and the not so well known but very fine drummer Pal Thowsen playing 4 duos in not so lengthy tracks and then joined by Rypdal and Andersen on 4 other tracks. The duos are magnificent even if you never cared for drum solos. They are done with drums and percussion as main instruments but other sonorities are used making then more 'experimental' and edgy. The others with the other musicians are great as Rypdal is a bit hotter than he usually is.
The Chicago-born master drummer hopes that his selection “will bring peace, warmth and joy to the listener”. The warm and joyful duo recording with Keith Jarrett that brought both DeJohnette and Jarrett to ECM in 1971 is reprised here - as are bright moments with Gateway, Mick Goodrick and a succession of Jack’s own bands – New Directions, Special Edition and Oneness, with soloists including Lester Bowie, David Murray and John Abercrombie.
The Rarum series on the ECM label is unique in that it issues "best-of" compilations picked by the artists themselves. While this can be a double-edged sword (oftentimes what an artist and his or her own fans enjoy are two different things), in this case it turns out to be a blessing. Metheny is obviously a fine judge of his own work, both from artistic and popular points of view. The selections are accompanied by an album-by-album overview by Metheny in the liner notes.
Jan Garbarek's music can be summed up in one simple word: meditation. Sure, the term is loaded with overtones, both good and bad. But do not confuse meditation with mindlessness: they are polar opposites. Garbarek's thirty years with ECM (as a leader and collaborator) have yielded hundreds of melodies which lead to an infinitely light state of inner peace. It's hard to imagine a more positive statement for a saxophone player who long ago decided to forsake flash-and-bang for "simpler" music with understated spiritual energy. And this two-disc set does Garbarek justice. Each disc runs in chronological order from about 1975 through 1995.