JazzTimes 10: Landmark ECM Albums

In honor of the label’s 50th anniversary, a celebration of 10 crucial releases

2. Chick Corea and Gary Burton: Crystal Silence (1973)
If ECM is indeed a genre (or at least an aesthetic), it might best be boiled down to “atmosphere.” Crystal Silence is one of the first—and most famous—manifestations of such. Bookended by the playful grooves of “Señor Mouse” and “What Game Shall We Play Today,” the remainder of pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton’s duo summit (excepting the Latin “Falling Grace”) is slow and spacious. Each track unfolds very deliberately, with a melodic language that was both jazz-based and detached from bebop. The highlight is the title track, a tune that Corea had already debuted on Return to Forever (another ECM album) with a profoundly atmospheric conception. This one was softer still, with a different harmonic vocabulary—suggesting both Corea’s resourcefulness and ECM’s intriguing new jazz niche.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.