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ECM label had been for quite a lot. I like it and very often blindly pick up any record with ECM label on it and m'sure I'll simply enjoy that. It's a label that accommodates the best artists and known not only for extraordinary jazz, but neo-classical and neo-world music.
Pat Metheny, Miroslav Vitous, Terje Ripdal, Nana Vasconcielos, Meridith Monk, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden and many more to list...
The best way to enter ECM's rather dense (but musically nutritious) catalog is to initially browse, discover an album or song of interest - then identify the musician(s) who seems to be most responsible for your enjoyment. At that point, use them as a guide to other releases in which they contribute or even lead. A music streaming service like MOG helps aid such sampling - then find it on CD or vinyl when you totally dig it. MOG has lots of ECM - whereas Spotify has none (perhaps some kind of Nordic/Teutonic rift?). Discogs.com and Allmusic guide catalog all players discographies across projects as well.
Being familiar with Nils P-M and his album Khmer - the next easy buy would be his album Ligotage (which was done the same year with very similar material). Before you leave him, check out his projects with Manu Katche as an off ramp to other artists (in particular Neighbourhood). That album is like a modern ECM family tree with lots of musical branches to climb up.
If you simply just dig the vibe of Khmer - then def try Arve Henriksen's album Cartography (in which Nils is present if not featured).
That should get you going.
Enjoy the climb.
My 2 cents...Check out Ralph Towner & Jan Garbarek on ECM - reasonably accessible. Playing off CTo007's suggestion, look at the other musicians they recorded with (e.g., Eberhard Weber) and try their stuff too. Usually, with ECM you get interesting, often beautiful and sometimes challenging music, not to mention great sonics. Would all labels were like ECM.
This is, of course, subjective judgement, but here goes. I've bought ECM for decades, one of my favorite labels. Rockadanny is right, some of their releases are boring though. Some I definitely think aren't boring: Anything by Steve Tibbetts (great guitarist who is always channeling his inner percusionist.) In particular "Safe Journey," "Exploded View," & "A Man About a Horse." John Hassell's "Last Night the Moon Came Dropping its Clothes in the Street." Marcus Stockhausen/Terje Rypdal/Arild Andersen's "Karta." Charles Lloyd's "Sangam," "Canto," & "Voice in the NIght." Tomasz Stanko "From the Green Hill." Bobo Stenson Trio "War Orphans." Also greatly enjoy Terje Rypdal's entire catalog.
Peter Erskine Trio; As it is.
Beautiful recorded piano trio album.
Fourth album from the subtle Erskine Trio continues to explore space and texture and what the dummer-leader refers to as the "underside of music-making". As on previous showings, pianist John Taylor's still-undervalued compositional skills are to the fore, but Erskine and bassist Danielsson also contribute material - ranging from a waltz to a 12 tone piece - and the tradition of including a Kenny Wheeler piece on each disc is also brought up to date. Down Beat described this as a "Zen" trio; Erskine says "We never solo but we always solo."
Not sure we share the same opinion as to what avant garde classical is but I thought I would share an odd ECM story from this last week, Albert Porter was kind enough to give me one of the few ECM discs that he did not care for-Gismonti's "Danca des Cabecas" and one of the sides is not Gismonti, in fact it is a single track of solo piano, Keith Jarrett maybe. I have been handling vinyl intensively since the early 80's and have only come across such an oddity a few times.
None mentioned Nils Petter Molvaer around ECM since 1997
The members of his band are also unique and creative musicians such as Eivind Aarset.
Eivind Aarset often in my mind correlates to another similar yet also unique guitarist that had his ECM years which is Bill Frisell. Both of them aren't major ECM artists unlike Gismonti or Jarrett, but definitely worth the elite label of world's most creative musicians.