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Luminessence, ECM’s new audiophile vinyl-reissue series, is a kaleidoscope, shedding light on the jewels of the label’s deep catalogue in elegant, high-quality editions. The hallmarks of the series: original and evocative music, imaginatively played and sensitively produced. The recordings underline the scope and variety of ECM’s world of sound and the LPs are presented in different formats.

The series features albums that have changed perceptions of creative music making, albums now heralded as classics. Some are offered in exclusive facsimile editions, others framed in high-grade gatefolds that include new liner notes offering historical context and fresh perspectives, while again others have been long out of print or even never before released on vinyl. Many of the re-issues are cut from the original analog master tapes and all Luminessence releases incorporate the striking cover art which has contributed to ECM’s renown.

Launching the series are Kenny Wheeler’s Gnu High and Nana Vasconcelos’s Saudades, which were recorded in 1975 and 1979 respectively and are indicative of the label’s reach from the outset. Gnu High was Kenny Wheeler’s debut record for the label, fronting a stunning quartet with Keith Jarrett on piano, Dave Holland on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. The album put Wheeler on the map, as both lyrical improviser and jazz composer, and laid the foundation for the Canadian trumpeter’s influential and highly regarded work to come. Saudades, meanwhile, was the culmination of Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos’s dream of hearing the berimbau in an orchestral context. It was made possible through the creative input of Egberto Gismonti, here the arranger of the material for strings, as well as co-composer and supporting soloist. The Gismonti-Vasconcelos creative partnership was highlighted on a number of recordings, but never again in this magical orchestral weaving of musical expressions.

Among the many other significant ECM recordings appearing in this ongoing re-issue series will be Keith Jarrett’s Bremen Lausanne 3-LP Box-set, Jan Garbarek’s Afric Pepperbird as well as Madar, by Garbarek and Anouar Brahem, which appears on vinyl for the first time. Also, Zakir Hussain’s Making Music, Gary Burton’s New Quartet, and the self-titled album by Old And New Dreams with Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell. And of course, Luminessence, the 1975 album that gives the series its name and sees Jan Garbarek improvising over string-arrangements written explicitly for him by Keith Jarrett, will also be part of the edition and released soon. All of these records were produced by Manfred Eicher – and more will follow.

 

One of the defining sound-worlds of the past half-century of recorded music is the distinguished repertory of ECM Records, which was founded by the Munich musician and producer Manfred Eicher, in 1969. The ECM sound is a trademark of the times, crystalline and reverberant, conveying both the intimacy of live performance and the warmth of a concert space.

Richard Brody, The New Yorker

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