Creative Aesthetic

February 14, 2012

I trust no current label more than ECM Records, in part because I know what I’m getting to a certain degree.

Since 1969, German producer Manfred Eicher has honed his very specific aesthetic, which includes expertly recorded jazz, classical, improv and world music. Four new gorgeous LPs from the label represent it well: Giovanna Pessi/Susanna K. Wallumrød’s “If Grief Could Wait,” Tord Gustavsen Quartet’s “The Well,” Jon Balke/Batagraf’s “Say and Play” and Tim Berne’s “Snakeoil.”

The first three albums are by artists who feel ECM to the core: cerebral, quietly dynamic, European. But Berne, above, is an animated American known for his love of free improv, noisy funk and twisty compositions. The 57-year-old saxophonist is also a DIY beacon, releasing copious amounts of great music via his own Screwgun label.

On “Snakeoil,” Berne plays more into ECM’s chamber-jazz aesthetic, albeit with his usual tonal edginess. But Eicher’s force pulls even the most idiosyncratic artists into his orbit.

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil plays Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW; Sun., 7 & 9 p.m., $15; 202-299-0800. (U Street)
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