Pianist Wolfert Brederode about his work with ECM, Europe’s most famous jazz label

Wolfert BrederodeStatue Peter van Breukelen

Since its foundation in 1969, the German label ECM Records has grown into one of the most famous, leading jazz labels in the world. In the US you have Blue Note and Impulse!, Europe has ECM in Munich, which has already released hundreds of titles under the inspiring leadership of Manfred Eicher (79).

You don’t just bring your music to ECM. It’s pointless to send a band with demos. Suggestions from other musicians don’t work for Eicher either. ‘Manfred decides his own course’, says Wolfert Brederode (48).

The pianist from The Hague recently performed at ECM Ruins and remains from, his fourth album as a band leader and the first on the label that has an all-Dutch line-up. Brederode’s work is therefore in the same catalog for which Eicher drew icons such as Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny in the 1970s. Jarrett released his classic on ECM in 1975 The concert in Cologne out, but Eicher also teamed up with Steve Reich (Music for 18 musicians1978) and composer of modern classical Arvo Pärt.

‘Manfred still has his feelers on and selects the musicians he finds interesting,’ says Brederode, who has worked with Eicher for more than 20 years. They met when the pianist was still playing in the band of Swiss singer Susanne Abbuehl, who recorded the album for ECM in 2001 April taken.

‘Manfred saw me playing with her and also arranging on the spot. He asked if I could say something myself. Our first contact was that he liked my jeans so much or I couldn’t order them for him too. I sent him a pair of trousers in exchange for twelve CDs.’

Wolfert Brederode Statue Peter van Breukelen

Wolfert BrederodeStatue Peter van Breukelen

Musically, they also matched quickly. ‘Manfred is also very fond of both classical and jazz. I personally think that string quartets are one of the most beautiful ensembles in classical music. On my new album I work together with the Matangi Quartet and drummer and percussionist Joost Lijbaart, with whom I have played intensively for 15 years.’

A choice that appealed to Eicher. ‘It’s really not like Manfred says yes and amen to everything you suggest, but when he heard about my project with Matangi and drummer Joost Lijbaart in 2018, he got excited.

After two albums with Abbuehl, Brederode already released three on ECM under his own name. In addition, he still plays in the quartet of saxophonist Yuri Honing, with whom preparations for a new album have just started.

Ruins and remains was originally a suite commemorating the end of the First World War, one hundred years ago in 2018, says Brederode. An early version of the work had already been performed and had excited Eicher’s enthusiasm. ‘We even had recording dates where corona put an end to everything.’ Filming had to be postponed three times, which gave Brederode the opportunity to expand the play and adapt it to this time. ‘Originally, the theme of trial and error already played a role. Since corona at the beginning of 2020, a lot has changed in my life. The big picture, the war, also fits into it, but seeing what can be rebuilt from ruins has now become more personal for me.’

He incorporated Covid, events on a relational level and the death of his father into the music. But the beautiful spring of 2020 also returns in a song like cloudless. ‘There was something beautiful about the silence that was everywhere, the blue sky without flat stripes.’

When Brederode was finally allowed to go to Bremen in August with the string quartet and drummer to record their album in the famous Sendesaal, Eicher was the producer, as on almost all ECM releases. “Only he wasn’t behind a screen in the studio, as usual, but he was the one-man audience in the room. We played without headsets and monitors, Manfred had adjusted all microphones precisely so that the right mix of music and room acoustics was created. He can do that like no one else.’

The serene interplay between silence, space and music plays a decisive role on many ECM albums, including the beautiful ones Ruins and remains. ‘I wanted the sound of strings to be mixed with, for example, the reverberation of the piano and the percussion sounds of the very softly playing Joost.’ The two recurring themes ‘ruins’ and ‘remains’ connect the pieces on the album, which are characterized by Brederode’s sparse playing.

Not a note for many, and yet telling a story, Eicher liked that. ‘Our playing also fits well with the aesthetic you hear on many ECM records and which Manfred loves. Be sparing with notes and only play the ones you really need. Don’t play something because you think you have to. Manfred realizes that immediately, and then it has to be done again’.

Wolfert Brederode: Ruins and remains. ECM Records. Album presentation 15/10, Bimhuis, Amsterdam.

ECM Records

When you hear recent work on ECM Records, you think of sweeping vistas, beautiful skies and mountain landscapes shrouded in mist. Quite different from the brand’s office, which is located in Munich above a Mediamarkt branch and overlooks the motorway. ‘They’ve been there for years, it won’t cost much,’ says Brederode. They take good care of what they have earned from Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek. Everything is invested in new projects that may yield less

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