JazzTimes 10: Landmark ECM Albums

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

4. Jack DeJohnette: Special Edition (1980)
Nearly 40 years later, there are still very few (if any) albums quite like the first Special Edition LP. Its powerhouses at first seem to be David Murray and Arthur Blythe and their equally free-ranging yet equally distinctive tenor and alto saxes (respectively). They engage in lovely, sympathetic harmonies on “Central Park West”; shouting matches on “Zoot Suite,” also one of DeJohnette’s most ambitious and memorable compositions; and weird, metamorphosing counterpoint on “Journey to the Twin Planet.” But the real batteries charging the album are bassist/cellist Peter Warren (who can be forgiven for using the au courant bass direct microphone) and DeJohnette, who, when not moving over to piano or melodica, displays the hard-edged vocabulary that became particularly influential within the ECM sphere. The music ventures through old-time swing, modal jazz, bebop, and free blowing, using several of the loft-jazz era’s heavyweights to exemplify its ideas.

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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.