70 years old today, Manfred Eicher certainly has lots to celebrate. His achievements have been recognized worldwide, and just recently he won, for the fifth time, the DownBeat Critics Poll Producer of the Year award, as well as ECM winning the Label of the Year award. I know he is in it for the music itself, but the awards and the critical acclaim he gained with more than forty years of recording and producing are stunning.
When I met Manfred Eicher back in 2000, I was very familiar (and of course very impressed) with the ECM catalogue. Some (many!) of my favorite albums were produced by him, and I felt right from the start of our collaboration how important he would be for my music. I also remember very clearly my teacher and friend Jeanne Lee’s words (some months before she passed away, also in 2000) as I told her that I would be recording for ECM: “It’s the right place for your music!” And she was so right.
Summing up Manfred Eicher’s qualities as a producer is easy, as they are so clearly felt by everyone present in the studio and beyond. When we recorded “April”, pianist Wolfert Brederode was 26 years old, and drummer Samuel Rohrer was just 23. Manfred was the fifth member of the group: by his deep listening, his charismatic presence and his focused yet loose in-the-moment approach, he made it possible for us to record the music that was really our music.
Since then, I heard him answer questions about the magic of his work on several occasions. After sometimes elaborately phrased questions about concepts and visions, he often brought it back to one simple truth: he records the music he likes. He has been an inspiration to so many of us, and at 70, he has all the energy one could wish for at any age – and more!
I wish we could go on making records together forever. Creating music with him counts among the biggest joys and most intense moments of being alive.
Thank you M.E., and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!