By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The SFJAZZ Center continues it’s packed Season 5 schedule this weekend with four nights highlighting artists who make up part of the impressive ECM Records label roster.
Founded in 1969 by German record producer Manfred Eicher, ECM (which stands for Edition of Contemporary Music) would become a new imprint that for the next decade and beyond rivaled the golden era of such famed jazz labels as Blue Note, Verve and Riverside in terms of both the quality of music and the distinctive photographic cover designs. ECM would issue records for a host of ’70s jazz greats including pianists Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea, bassists Dave Holland and Charlie Haden, vibraphone master Gary Burton and a host of guitar virtuosos including Pat Metheny, John Abercrombie, Terje Rypdal and Ralph Towner.
While jazz made up a bulk of the output from ECM Records, the label also issued important modern classical releases from minimalist composer Steve Reich and avant gardist Meridith Monk as well as world music recordings by Indian violinist L. Shankar and Brazilian artists Naná Vasconcelos and Egberto Gismonti.
The four-night run of the ECM Fest will feature both musicians who made an early mark with the label and young players of a more recent vintage. Thursday night kicks off the festival with a solo performance by classically-influenced acoustic jazz guitarist Towner and a rare West Coast appearance by the Gary Peacock Trio featuring the longtime Keith Jarrett collaborator (Peacock is a member of Jarrett’s Standards Trio) leading his own threesome with monster drummer Joey Barron and piano player Marc Copeland.
On Friday, SFJAZZ welcomes a pair of notable duos. Pianist Ethan Iverson, best known for his genre-shredding jazz experiments as part of the renowned trio the Bad Plus, teams up with tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, who has recorded for ECM as a leader as well as a sideman for labelmates Billy Hart and Enrico Rava and as part of the trio Fly with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard. That duo will share the stage with Munich-born cellist Anja Lechner and French pianist François Couturier, two musicians who are part of the Tarkovsky Quartet and collaborated on the acclaimed 2014 duo album on ECM, Moderato Cantabile.
Saturday’s bill is anchored by another young keyboard phenom in Craig Taborn. Known equally as an acoustic pianist and an electronic maverick who frequently employs Moog synthesizer and Fender Rhodes piano in his arsenal of instruments, Taborn has recorded solo piano and a trio for the label, but on Saturday will lead his quartet with the Bad Plus drummer Dave King, sax player Chris Speed and bassist Chris Lightcap through songs from their brand new debut Daylight Ghosts. The quartet is joined by pianist Aaron Parks and his trio with legendary drummer Billy Hart.
On Sunday, the ECM Fest comes to a close with a pair of high-powered ensembles. Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel cut his teeth playing with ECM artists Burton and Peacock after attending the Berklee School of Music in Boston. He brings his quintet with talented trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and monster drummer Brian Blade to Miner Auditorium while drummer King returns to the venue leading his own trio and possibly previewing material the trio is scheduled to record for its ECM debut later this year. For more information on the festival including ticket prices and showtimes, visit the SFJAZZ website.
Thursday-Sunday, times and prices vary
Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ Center