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:rarum 2 Go

Greatest hits albums often signal the decay of a musical career, a record company’s effort to suck the last bits of marrow from the corpse of a deadwood artist. The albums are impersonal, the tracks snatched from the context of their original recordings and relocated with the authenticity of Epcot’s circle of nations. In short, the music is stolen from the artist for the sake of profit.

So, in May 2003, when ECM released its own series of greatest hits collections, titled :rarum, did they change their motto to: “The most beautiful sound next to a cash register?”


True to ECM’s reputation for stellar music, creativity and sound, the :rarum series put the artist and their artistry back in charge of their greatest hits collections by asking the musicians to choose their own favorite songs, write the liner notes and supply pictures from their personal collections. The result is a spectacular guided tour through the lives and careers of your favorite ECM artists.

February 10 and March 16 mark the releases of the next 12 volumes of the :rarum series. This time around, ECM legends such as Pat Metheny, John Abercrombie, Jack DeJohnette, Carla Bley, Dave Holland and Paul Motion had a chance to revisit their 30-year relationships with to label boss and producer Manfred Eicher Eicher and ECM.

Of his edition of :rarum, bassist Dave Holland says, “In preparing for the choice, I found myself looking back over a kind of musical diary of my life, each project representing not only a musical moment, but also a moment in my life, with all the associated memories.”

Meanwhile, the moments of reflection spurred sentimentalism in Pat Metheny during his :rarum process: “I always wished I had played better on that day we recorded, but somehow I think we did capture something about where we were and what we were aspiring to become as musicians in that moment in time.”

And for John Abercrombie, putting together his :rarum generated humor: “This meant listening to myself over the years, which was both interesting and a bit frightening. Like looking at a photo album, and seeing all those changes that have taken place, as well as memories that were rekindled. (Ahh, sweet hair!!!)”

Common sentiment among all :rarum musicians, however, is a sense of gratitude to Manfred Eicher for believing in and propelling their art.

Here’s the :rarum release schedule:

February 10

Pat Metheny, :rarum IX

John Abercrombie, :rarum XIV

Tomasz Stanko, :rarum XVII

Eberhard Weber :rarum XVIII

Jack DeJohnette, :rarum XII

John Surman, :rarum XIII

March 16

Dave Holland, :rarum X

Egberto Gismonti, :rarum XI

Carla Bley, :rarum XV

Paul Motian, :rarum XVI

Arlid Andersen, :rarum XIX

Jon Christensen, :rarum XX

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Originally Published