George Adams' sole effort on ECM Records is a critical controversy.
Adventures with Admiral Analog's Audio Assortment, Part 6 of 8
Tenor saxophonist George Adams started out playing with Charles Mingus and is best known for his collaborations with pianist Don Pullen on Blue Note Records in the 1980s. But before those sessions, Adams was working with smaller labels, trying to get his name out there as a leader. After two albums with the Italian Horo Records, ECM picked up Adams for a recording date in 1979.
ECM seems to have played a heavy hand in organizing the date, and though there are heavyweights such as Dave Holland (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums) included in the personnel, Adams may not have had much of a say in choosing collaborators. He was brought to ECM because of his potential to add fiery playing to a label that had a reputation for "understatement."
While some feel he did just that, and in the process showed us more of what he was capable as a session leader, others felt the collaboration was too forced and that he was not free enough to stretch out on his own. This would be the only collaboration between Adams and ECM Records, and regardless if the resulting product may be judged as successful, it was definitely adventurous for the German label.
Frieder Grindler is a Berlin-based graphic designer and photographer, who is perhaps most famous for belonging to the Kassel Poster Art School (a collective of designers and illustrators from the Kunsthochschule Kassel) and the numerous posters, books, and magazines he has designed over the years. During the 1970s and early 1980s, he was also a prolific album cover designer, mainly for three labels: ECM Records, Mood Records, and MPS Records. Each label had their own tightly controlled branding for album covers, but Grindler fit into all of them fluidly.
ECM Records favored a tightly cropped image, often a close-up view of a surface, with overlapping text.
Mood Records made use of strong black and white visuals, with text that often surrounded the image, and a proud logo placement in the lower left corner.
MPS Records' strategy for album design was somewhat of a mix between the tastes of ECM and Mood. They favored lush images that dominated the geography of the album's surface, but also included surrounding and separate text. Grindler's work with MPS featured perhaps his most experimental album design efforts.
A bit more about our sources:
ECM talks about the "characteristic fire" of Adams on their archive entry for Sound Suggestions, and summarize this effort as one of their label's "hottest joints."
The Jazz Music Archives review of Sound Suggestions states that Adams was not able to play as explosively on this album, probably because of the label's tastes.
Always a good baseline, the Allmusic Review entry for Sound Suggestions contrasts the extroverted Adams to the introverted ECM label, and admits that Adam's fiercest works were yet to come.
All these beautiful photos were sourced from Frieder Grindler's own website, which is a rewarding look through his career. We highly recommend it!