With ECM's gradual reissue of titles that have previously been unavailable on CD, the label is providing an opportunity to reconnect with some of the early albums that created such remarkable brand loyalty amongst older fans. Equally, it's giving new listeners the chance to hear exactly why the label's emergence in the early '70s represented such a fresh and significant event in modern jazz, allowing the label to quickly build a reputation for diverse and uncompromising music that continues to this day.
It's always been curious that ECM managed to become renowned for a specific sound in a relatively short period of time, when anything more than a cursory investigation into the label's catalogue would confirm that this is s misconception. Terms like "cool, "crystalline, and "rarefied come up all the time, yet just look at the small catalogue released up to the time of trombonist Julian Priester's Love, Lovehis first of two records for the labeland it becomes clear that such broad generalizations simply don't apply.
The creation of Love, Love, in fact, had no direct involvement from label owner/producer Manfred Eicher. Produced by Priester and synthesizer player Patrick Gleeson, it was recorded around the same time, in the same studio, and with some of the same musicians as the group that recorded pianist Herbie Hancock's '73 release Sextant. It demonstrates, yet again, thatcontrary to popular beliefECM has never been bound to a strictly European aesthetic. But once again, a simple look at the label's roster would quickly dispel that myth as well.
In the midst of pyrotechnic fusion groups like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever, Love, Lovelike Sextantrepresented a different kind of fusion, relying more on texture, groove, and collective improvisation than complex arrangement and high-velocity soloing. And yet, while visceral grooves define most of the music, there's also an element of freedomused more often as an introduction or segue between other segmentsthat clearly reflects the musicians' broad backgrounds. Drummer Eric Gravatt, for example, was an alumnus of Weather Report's early days, when the group was a more spontaneously improvisational outfit; likewise, bassist Ron McClure had a longer pedigree that included work with Charles Lloyd, Joe Henderson, and Wynton Kelly.
But despite the obvious links to Sextant, the two nearly twenty-minute pieces on Love, Love reflect an earthier aesthetic. Even during more open-ended passages like "Prologue, which leads into the hypnotically funky 15/8 rhythm of "Love, Love," there are structural signposts. Once the persistent groove is established, though, it's not so much about individual solosalthough some, like ex-Return to Forever guitarist Bill Connor's do stand outbut a more collective approach where everyone solos and nobody solos.
Love, Love is less dense but it nevertheless shares more with Miles Davis' more uncompromising '70s electric work than it does with the increasingly user-friendly popular fusion that was admittedly moving considerably more units. Some of the sonics may date Love, Love, but its collective approach and spirited vitality retain a sense of freshness and excitement thirty years later.
Julian Priester: trombones, baritone horn, post horn, whistle flute, cowbell, small
percussion, ARP 2600 synthesizer, Proto-type ARP string synthesizer; Pat Gleeson: ARP
2600 synthesizer, ARP Odyssey synthesizer, Moog III, Oberheim digital sequencer; Hadley
Caliman: flute, saxophones, bass clarinet; Bayete Umbra Zindinko: fender rhodes, piano,
clavinet D-6; Nyimbo Henry Franklin: fender bass, acoustic bass on all except "Love, Love";
Ndugu Leon Chancler: drums on all except "Love, Love"; Mguanda David Johnson: flute,
soprano saxophone on all except "Love, Love"; Kamau Eric Gravatt: drums, congas on
"Love, Love"; Ron McClure: fender bass on "Love, Love"; Bill Connors: electric guitar on