Enja Records

By Published: | 9,825 views
Matthias Winckelmann's favorite recording of the hundreds he's made is the one just finished. Over the years, he's documented music from all over the world and of many different stripes and has always been eloquent and passionate. His label Enja has been in existence for 38 years and a look at the catalogue tells you that the excitement is still there.

In 1971, two longtime Munich jazz fans, Winckelmann and Horst Weber, made their first recording together, Black Glory, by pianist Mal Waldron
Mal Waldron
Mal Waldron
1926 - 2002
piano
. The Enja label actually got going a year later, in 1972 and after Waldron followed European and Japanese musicians including trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff
Albert Mangelsdorff
Albert Mangelsdorff
1928 - 2005
trombone
, trumpeter Terumasa Hino and pianist Masahiko Sato. And what did Enja stand for? "Well," says Winckelmann, "that is a funny thing. It didn't originally stand for anything. I sat with my wife in the kitchen and we thought, 'Now, what are we going to call this newborn baby?' I thought of all kinds of abbreviations and came up with these four letters and later found a meaning to it, which meant European New Jazz and then we went into American old jazz right away."

Winckelmann had, since the late '50s, been exposed to many US jazz musicians when growing up in Frankfurt—then the jazz capital of the country. He also attended Munich University as a graduate student in economics and sociology. He says, "I had a seminal experience when I listened to my first Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
record. It totally turned my head around and still does to this day. From that day on, I knew that I wanted to spend my life in connection with jazz."

Weber had promoted jazz concerts in his native Aachen and worked as a freelance clothes designer. As a contributor to the German Fashion Institute he got to travel to Japan in the late '60s where he established many contacts with the jazz world.

How did the label get the finances to begin? Says Winckelmann, "I talked to my bank and told them, 'Look, I want to start a record label and I need like 20,000 dollars.' They gave me a big laugh and said, 'OK, but not from us.' I simply had to round up that money on the private side, which worked out and I paid everything back after two years. Luckily, Horst had a very good relationship with several of the largest Japanese record companies. We licensed our first Mal Waldron record immediately to the Victor Company in Japan. I had a little capital left immediately for the second record. We just went step by step in those days."

Enja soon recorded great players like Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
1930 - 2001
piano
, Chet Baker
Chet Baker
Chet Baker
1929 - 1988
trumpet
, Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
, Abdullah Ibrahim
Abdullah Ibrahim
Abdullah Ibrahim
b.1934
piano
(then Dollar Brand), Bennie Wallace
Bennie Wallace
Bennie Wallace
b.1946
sax, tenor
, Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
1930 - 2010
vocalist
, Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
b.1943
piano
and many others. At the Munich club Domicile, Winckelmann got to do live recordings with visiting artists such as Charles Tolliver
Charles Tolliver
Charles Tolliver
b.1942
trumpet
, Pepper Adams
Pepper Adams
Pepper Adams
1930 - 1986
sax, baritone
and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
Eddie
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
1922 - 1986
sax, tenor
. There they also did the very first recording by guitarist John Scofield
John Scofield
John Scofield
b.1951
guitar
. The label owners also sought to acquire finished tapes and thus released projects by Eric Dolphy
Eric Dolphy
Eric Dolphy
1928 - 1964
reeds
, Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
, Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
, Ben Webster
Ben Webster
Ben Webster
1909 - 1973
sax, tenor
, Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
1904 - 1969
sax, tenor
, Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
drums
and Hampton Hawes
Hampton Hawes
Hampton Hawes
1928 - 1977
piano
.

In early 1986 Winckelmann and Weber decided—due to differing ideas on where to take the label—to separate and work individually. Winckelmann increased his visits to New York and came to produce an average of 30 albums annually. Recordings were released by many major artists: Kenny Barron, Ray Anderson
Ray Anderson
Ray Anderson
b.1952
trombone
, Wayne Krantz
Wayne Krantz
Wayne Krantz
b.1956
guitar
, Bobby Previte
Bobby Previte
Bobby Previte
b.1957
drums
, McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
, Arthur Blythe
Arthur Blythe
Arthur Blythe
b.1940
sax, alto
, Elvin Jones, Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
b.1927
sax, alto
and countless others. Debut recordings were done by Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider

band/orchestra
, Abraham Burton
Abraham Burton
Abraham Burton

sax, alto
, Ingrid Jensen
Ingrid Jensen
Ingrid Jensen
b.1966
trumpet
and Kevin Mahogany
Kevin Mahogany
Kevin Mahogany
b.1958
vocalist
.

Winckelmann now oversees all of Enja activities with the assistance of a small staff that includes Werner Aldinger. They do not seem to have let the troubled world economies dampen their passion for broadly diverse musics.

Jim West of Justin Time calls Winckelmann a "friend" and "mentor" and recalls a time when the two were in Montreal and West played a cassette of the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir. "I thought I'd have to peel Matthias off the roof of the car, he was that excited. He licensed the recording for Europe and got the group touring in Europe to great press. All of that was organized by Matthias!" Winckelmann also continues to find an extraordinary collection of musicians from around the world. Oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil
Rabih Abou-Khalil
Rabih Abou-Khalil
b.1957
oud
is one of the giants on the label and, in some sense, the player who got the label thinking about music on a broader scope. Renaud Garcia-Fons is a French bassist whose family is of Catalonian origin. Fons—whose new album, La Linea del Sur, was just released—is taken with the Enja recording process.

comments powered by Disqus
Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.

or search site with Google