Manfred Eicher – A Magnificent Obsession

At a time when the heads of most record labels barely know how to play a record, let alone make one, Manfred Eicher—owner, founder, and inspiration of ECM Records, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2010—has been intimately involved in the making of nearly 1200 of them. How many, though, can he actually remember working on?

"When I listen back to them, I know the story of every record," he says without a smile or a moment's hesitation. "There is never an easy record. Every record needs a lot of input and concentration and dedication and passion to be made, that's clear. Create an atmosphere that is a productive search for music, and when this is the case, you have very memorable records."

Always a resolute talent, Eicher has now, by process of elimination and his almost unerring ear, become a glorious anomaly in an increasingly fragmented and fading record business. Tunisian oud players, Norwegian pianists, Polish trumpeters, free jazz and contemporary classical music—ECM has it all, making it one of the most distinctive catalogs of recordings ever made. It is also the impressive symbol of what one man, armed with an absolute vision and iron-man work ethic, has been able to accomplish, one record at a time, over four decades. Congrats, Mr. Eicher.

Legendarily cool and elusive, as well as single-minded, and occasionally arrogant, Eicher .............

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