Thursday, 1 October 2009

My Tribe

In the wake of the Innsbruck exhibition, I've found myself explaining myself and my motives a lot, mainly to the kind of intimate stranger you meet via a blog -- kindred spirits who live on the other side of the planet and who may or may not be using a pseudonym. It's been a bit like a little taster session or homeopathic dose of fame, and as a consequence I've been reading the kind of things writers and artists say to journalists with a new sympathy. No-one wants to be boring, but it must be a royal pain to have your throwaway remarks jump out of a press cutting to bite you half a lifetime later.

As so often, I don't really know what I think until I've said it out loud, and the most interesting and surprising thing I've heard myself say, is that I feel quite European these days. I had been listening to an interview on BBC Radio 4 with the self-taught Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, and had experienced an enormous sense of fellow-feeling. That's my tribe, I thought. I've been a long time ECM records listener (not hard to guess, perhaps) and Garbarek is central to that project. As a label, ECM is highly distinctive; not just cerebral Euro-jazz but all kinds of multicultural crossovers such as Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble's surprise hit Officium. Many people will own that recording and classics like Keith Jarrett's Köln Concert or Arvo Pärt's Tabula Rasa without realising their common denominator.

Of course, one thing ECM is famous for is its record sleeves. They are an education in good taste and photographic excellence. If I could name my dream job, it would probably be supplying images for ECM recordings. In fact, as soon as I've finished this post, I may well sit down and draft a job application: it's not far from Munich to Innsbruck, after all, and maybe Manfred Eicher needs a nice day out...

[Talking of which: If anyone has a copy of the book ECM: Sleeves of Desire (basically, an illustrated catalogue of all the ECM sleeves from 1970 to the mid-90s) which they are prepared to sell at a sensible price, please do get in touch. I do have a copy of the more recent book Horizons Touched (still available and which I recommend to any ECM fan) but Sleeves of Desire has attained the cult status of an unobtainable classic. By "sensible price", I'm afraid I mean less than 100 Euros...]

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