From ECM: Digital downloads of sought-after titles from the back catalogue of ECM and sister label Japo

Here is what ECM tells us:

“In this selection, improvisational daring finds expression ‘in all languages’ (to use Ornette Coleman’s phrase). Amongst the highlights: trailblazing explorations into new sonic soundscapes with Evan Parker and Derek Bailey, and strikingly individual pianos trios led by Bobo Stenson, Richie Beirach, Stanley Cowell, and Takashi Kako. Ex Soft Machine saxophonist Elton Dean leads an all-acoustic band, Mal Waldron plugs in for some post-Miles free funk, and legendary free jazz big band Globe Unity is heard on an album of total improvisation and another album of intermittently-swinging tunes.

Recorded between 1970 and 1980, the titles here have never been out on CD….

The Music Improvisation Company

Evan Parker: soprano saxophone
Derek Bailey: guitar
Hugh Davies: live electronics
Jamie Muir: percussion
Christine Jeffrey: voice

This critically important improvising band helped shape a new musical language. In moving beyond the ‘free jazz’ of the 1960s Ensemble, Evan Parker and Derek Bailey had found an important ally in electronics man Hugh Davies, who had come from the world of new composition and worked with Stockhausen. Ideas brought to fruition decades later in Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble have their roots here.

Recorded August 1970.

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Bobo Stenson Underwear

Bobo Stenson: piano
Arild Andersen: bass
Jon Christensen: drums

A snapshot of Stenson, Andersen and Christensen in May 1971. Bobo’s first leader date, with a programme of original compositions and an Ornette Coleman tune.Youthful energy, strong melodies, inspired interaction, great sound.

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Stanley Cowell Illusion Suite

Stanley Cowell: piano
Stanley Clarke: bass
Jimmy Hopps: drums

Stanley Cowell’s only ECM date frequently showcases bassist Stanley Clarke in youthful virtuoso mode (fresh from his triumphs with Corea’s Return To Forever), but the pianist-leader has plenty to say, too. Illusion Suite is an earnest, presentation of the best of what one man has drawn from the heritage of the piano. ‘It demands and rewards your attention’ – Coda. Recorded November 1972.

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Richard Beirach Hubris

Richard Beirach: piano

Was it ‘hubris’ to record a solo piano album on ECM, after the achievements of Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley, and Steve Kuhn?

Press reactions suggested otherwise. In a 5-star review Down Beat declared that ‘Beirach has met the challenge of the solo project and prevailed.’ Hubris is the kind of singular achievement that should catapult him to the forefront of the current scene.’ Recorded June 1977.

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John Abercrombie Quartet Arcade

John Abercrombie: guitar, mandolin
Richard Beirach: piano
Georg Mraz: double-bass
Peter Donald: drums

The first recording by Abercrombie’s late 70s/early 80s quartet, recorded in December 1978. Richie Beirach is the principal composer on this date, contributing three pieces to Abercrombie’s two. Strong playing by all concerned, with elegant piano and guitar solos, and fine detail from the electric mandolin John considered his ‘soprano guitar’.

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Richard Beirach Elm

Richard Beirach: piano
George Mraz: double-bass
Jack DeJohnette: drums

High flying trio session with Beirach, Mraz, and DeJohnette, recorded in May 1979. Intensely melodic playing by Beirach leaves plenty of room for DeJohnette’s purring snare and splashing cymbals and Mraz’s gruffly driving bass. A highlight may be the bounding Snow Leopard. At its conclusion, one reviewer wrote that he ‘applauded the stereo speakers’. Recorded May 1979.

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Mal Waldron The Call

Mal Waldron electric piano
Jimmy Jackson organ
Eberhard Weber bass
Fred Braceful drums

A session in Ludwigsburg with the great Mal Waldron, experimenting in the post Bitches Brew world of taut ostinatos and jabbing keyboard sounds. A long way from Mal’s days with Billie Holiday or Mingus, it nonetheless retains a funky, period charm. Recorded February 1971.

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Enrico Rava Quotation Marks

Enrico Rava trumpet
Jeanne Lee vocal
John Abercrombie-Ricoardo Lew guitar
David Horowitz piano, synthesizer
Herb Bushler – El Negro Gonzales bass
Ray Armando – El Chino Rossi percussion
Warren Smith marimba
Jack DeJohnette – Nestor Astarita drums
Finito Bingert tenor saxophone, flute, percussion
Rodolfo Mederos bandoneon
Matias Pizarro piano

This unusual early Rava album, drawn from two sessions, one in New York and one in Buenos Aires, casts the Italian trumpeter as a wanderer between worlds, playing his solos in strikingly different contexts but already with a strong sense of the lyrical invention that would distinguish his future work. Recorded December 1973 and April 1974.

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Globe Unity Improvisations

Kenny Wheeler – M.Schoof trumpet
Albert Mangelsdorff – Paul Rutherford trombone
E.Parker soprano, tenor saxophone
Peter Brötzmann alto, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Gerd Dudek soprano, tenor saxophone, flute
M.Pilz bass clarinet
A.von Schlippenbach piano
Derek Bailey guitar
Tristan Honsinger cello
Peter Kowald bass, tuba
Buschi Niebergall bass
P.Lovens drums

Alex Schlippenbach’s collective at its most abstract, with Derek Bailey and Tristan Honsinger occasionally taking the music into post-Webern spaces, before a bellow from one of the horns (usually Brötzmann’s) directs the music back towards free jazz. Intriguing music emerges from this tug-of-war between diverse improvisational methodologies. Recorded September 1977.

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Globe Unity Compositions

Rava – Wheeler trumpet
Schoof trumpet, flugelhorn
Mangelsdorff – Christmann – Rutherford trombone
Lacy soprano saxo
Parker – Dudek tenor,soprano saxo
Pilz bass clarinet
Schlippenbach piano
Stewart tuba
Niebergall bass
Lovens drums, percussion

Partner album to Improvisations, Compositions found Globe Unity negotiating very different material from their more characteristic free blowing sound-explosions, with members stepping forward to conduct their own pieces. Music heard here includes Kenny Wheeler’s Nodagoo, Alex Schlippenbach’s Boa and The Forge, Günther Christmann’s Trom-Bone-It, Enrico Rava’s Flat Feet, Manfred Schoof’s Reflections, and Steve Lacy’s Worms (Dedicated to Ezra Pound). Recorded January 1979

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Barry Guy/Howard Riley/John Stevens/Trevor Watts Endgame

Barry Guy double bass
Howard Riley piano
John Stevens drums, cornet
Trevor Watts alto saxophone, soprano saxophone

A highly creative ‘production project’ focusing on the free spirits of the London scene, effectively cross-referencing three of the most important UK improvising groups – the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Trevor Watts’s Amalagam, and the Howard Riley Trio. It was the first time these four musicians had worked as a quartet. Recorded April 1979.

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TOK Paradox

Takashi Kako piano, celesta
Kent Carter double-bass, cello
Oliver Johnson drums, voice

Japanese pianist Takashi Kako was studying with Olivier Messiaen in Paris when he met Americans Kent Carter and Oliver Johnson, at the time the rhythm section of Steve Lacy’s group. After playing together in diverse contexts they formed the group TOK (Takashi, Oliver, Kent) one of the most exciting and original piano trios of the era. Recorded June 1979.

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Elton Dean Quintet Boundaries

Elton Dean alto saxophone
Mark Charig trumpet
Keith Tippett piano, voice
Marcio Mattos double-bass
Louis Moholo drums

The late Elton Dean often said that Boundaries was his favourite of his albums under his own name. As the title implies, it puts a focus on his writing rather than on the free playing aspects although there is also improvisational excellence here. The Dean/Charig/Tippett frontline extends the work these three players did together in the Keith Tippett Sextet of the early 1970s, and Brazilian bassist Mattos and South African drummer Moholo provide powerful rhythmic support throughout. Recorded February 1980. ”

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