I recorded a CD for ECM in 1978 called Elm. It was a trio recording with myself on piano, George Mraz on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums.
Jack, George, and I were playing together often in those days. I was close friends with George and while Jack and I weren’t as close, we played a lot of record dates together. We were all very comfortable with each other and this trio recording was a collection of my compositions.
Manfred Eicher was the producer and as such, he was brilliant at bringing out the best from all of us, me especially. One of the tunes we recorded was Elm, one of my best and most famous tunes. We also recorded Pendulum, Sea Priestess, and a ballad called Ki.
But one tune on that album was the highlight of the session for me.
It was called The Snow Leopard. It was a very up tempo piece that was inspired from a psychological and spiritual journey book about the snow leopard.
The book’s author, Peter Matthiessen, journeyed to the Himalayas looking for the snow leopard. Matthiessen wrote that the challenge with finding a snow leopard was that it was fast and it blended into its surroundings because of its white color and spots.
That made it very difficult to see against the snow. What I confirmed to myself in that recording session was that like the animal, musical magic is illusive but you’ll find it if you are patient and know where to look.
The head of the tune is pretty abstract. It is full of complicated chords and lots of rhythmic hits. It wasn’t a typical ECM tune but I didn’t care because we were showcasing my music, not ECM’s music.