JazzTimes 10: Landmark ECM Albums

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

3. Terje Rypdal: After the Rain (1976)
ECM’s most important contribution was probably its exposure of European jazz musicians. For whatever reason, Scandinavians tended to become the label’s standard bearers; Terje Rypdal, a Norwegian guitarist steeped in jazz fusion, was one of them. It was Rypdal who best harnessed the atmospherics that ECM was becoming known for. On After the Rain, he plays not only the guitars but pianos, synthesizers, soprano saxophone, flute, and a variety of bells. The only other musician on the date was Rypdal’s then-wife, vocalist Inger Lise Rypdal. The resulting series of soundscapes would pave the way for what became new age (another realm in which ECM made major inroads), but it’s also stirring, exquisite music in its own right, with superb examples of improvisation from Rypdal on several of his axes.

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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.