“We came from rock, but we played jazz” – Christy Doran
Formed in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1972 and named after Coltrane’s darkly convulsive album, the members of OM were initially inspired as much by the rock of Jimi Hendrix as by the new developments taking place in improvisation. “Electric jazz – free music” was their rallying cry, and they played it loudly. All in their early 20s when the group was launched, the members of OM achieved an early success at the Montreux Festival in 1974 which helped to put them on the map, and brought them to the attention of ECM. Four albums were recorded for ECM’s sister label Japo, between 1975 and 1980: “Kirikuki”, “Rautionaha”, “Om with Dom um Ramao” and “Cerberus”. In jazz-rock’s heyday, OM was one of the few bands (another was England’s Soft Machine) who were approaching jazz from a rock direction, rather than vice versa: most of fusion’s traffic took the opposite route. The validity of their approach is borne out by this compilation, with material chosen by the band.
From the liner notes by Peter Rüedi: ‘The music on this CD documents an evolution and is therefore in chronological order: “Holly” and “Lips” are from the first album, "Rautionaha" from the second, and "Dumini" from the “Om with Dom” record. "Cerberus” was transferred complete, for the simple reason that it is the most mature of the four. Fredy Studer, Christy Doran, Bobby Burri and Urs Leimgruber want to document OM’s history by using music that they can still identify with 25 years after the group’s break-up. And the freshness of the music is indeed arresting. The selection here avoids, very successfully, the pitfalls of cliché that make so many artefacts of the jazz rock era sound dated, bland, neither fish nor fowl. OM was a band, not an alliance of four lone warriors. A group that, in the course of a ten-year history, became ever more close-knit, with each member keeping his ego on a short leash... By avoiding and sabotaging routine (including the obligatory endless solos, the kind of relentless scale-grinding that a Coltrane in top form could render intriguing but certainly not his countless epigones) – and with an astonishing lack of vanity, the work of OM, once one of the leading European jazz ensembles, has remained fresh, thanks to the nerve, power and the vitality of their music. Even though – no, because – they separated in 1982. Not that they had exhausted the common ground they occupied (to use a political phrase). The players have remained very much in contact in various constellations, encounters, musical contexts. But they also went their own ways – because the wise artist avoids routine proactively, at a point where nobody else is aware of the danger.’
After OM broke up in ’82, its members continued to appear intermittently on ECM recordings, in combinations with each other and separately. Guitarist Doran, drummer Studer and bassist Burri all appeared on the album “Musik für zwei Kontrabässe, elektrische Gitarre und Schlagzeug” (ECM 1436). Doran and Studer were also part of the power trio Red Twist and Tuned Arrow (ECM 1342) , and Studer was also in Pierre Favre’s ‘Singing Drums’ collective (ECM 1274), and Rainer Brüninghaus’s Continuum band with Markus Stockhausen (ECM 1266). Saxophonist Urs Leimgruber has been away from ECM the longest – but also in his case there are some enduring connections: Urs today fronts a trio with bassist Barre Phillips and pianist Jacques Demierre, and plays regularly with Marilyn Crispell. He has become a major voice on the free improvisation scene. Indeed, all OM members have made their mark.
Lately Fredy Studer has been working in two quite different percussion trios – one with Robyn Schulkowsky and Joey Baron, and one with Chicagoan drummers Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang. His “Hardcore Chamber Music” group with reedman Hans Koch and cellist Martin Schütz continues to tour widely, and latterly Studer and Christy Doran have revisited their roots in Jimi Hendrix in a project with ex Defunkt bassist Kim Clarke. Reconciling his rock and jazz past has been an ongoing concern for Doran, in projects including his New Bag group, but Doran, too, has worked with many European and American improvisers of diverse ‘schools’ – from Jamaaladeen Tacuma to Han Bennink , from Joe McPhee to Edward Vesala.
A priority for Bobby Burri is, currently, solo concerts, often using his bass in tandem with electronics.
OM: A Retrospective (with a playing time of more than 80 minutes) marks the first time that any of the group’s music has appeared on compact disc, and its release was triggered by the mounting of an exhibition at Lucerne’s Historical Museum entitled Ausser Rand und Band. Die Luzerner Szene, 1950-80 and by the publication of a book of the same name edited by Heinz Horat. In connection with these activities the group members were invited to reconvene for a concert at Lucerne’s KKL on June 10th, the first time they have played as a quartet and under the OM banner in almost 25 years.
OM: A Retrospective: CD in slipcase includes German-English booklet with liner notes by Peter Rüedi, and archive photos of the band.