Enja Records has announced that the label’s co-founder Matthias Winckelmann passed away yesterday, 19 June 2022: “We are very sad: Matthias Winckelmann is no longer with us ( April 7, 1941 – June 19, 2022), RIP
Thanks for your energy and your enthusiasm for the music! We will miss you!”
ENJA: “The label’s first release was by Mal Waldron, and early releases included European and Japanese avant-garde artists such as Alexander von Schlippenbach, Terumasa Hino, Albert Mangelsdorff and Yosuke Yamashita, along with newer American jazz musicians like Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Leroy Jenkins and Eric Dolphy and straight-ahead musicians such as Tommy Flanagan, McCoy Tyner, Chet Baker, Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones, and Kenny Barron. The label also branched out to release early world music productions from Abdullah Ibrahim, Rabih Abou-Khalil, Mahmoud Turkmani, Gypsy bands, Indonesia’s Monica Akihary, and Turkish saz virtuoso Taner Akyol.” (Wikipedia quote). Also of note is the fact that Enja issued the first recordings of Maria Schneider.
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Matthias won the Ehrenpreis of the Deutesche Schallplattenkritik in 1996. Citation: “Again and again Matthias Winckelmann has set the standard for quality with its productions. He succeeds in exacting projects in a market swamped by mediocrity. Thanks to his feeling for talent, his understanding of the artist’s personality and his integrity as a producer, young musicians as well as established talent and sometimes nearly forgotten masterpieces have been documented.”
LJN invited Matthias to London in 2010 and hosted a presentation by him about the history of the label and his business philosophy in the St Pancras Room at Kings Place. He regaled us with great stories of his work with Chet Baker. Neal Richardson kindly wrote up the occasion for us HERE. Matthias was a supportive friend of LJN from the start, and an avid reader of our newsletter.
A descendant of the brother of JJ Winckelmann (the father of German Hellenism), Matthias founded the label in 1971 with a loan from his father, which he was proud to say he was able to repay within 18 months. His business partner was Horst Weber (1934 -2012), who had good connections in the Japanese marketplace. The name stood for “European New Jazz,” although there was never an intention to let that name determine what was released. See also the official version HERE (Some of the above is drawn from the wonderful obituary/ tribute which Roland Spiegel has done for Bayerischer Rundfunk.)
Here is the penultimate paragraph of that tribute, with the original German below.
“Anyone who had the experience of a conversation with Winckelmann will know the sheer amount of energy and enthusiasm which he invariably communicated to people about the music – which he considered the best in the world. He had the enthusiasm and the ability to light the touch paper with his words until the last years of his life. Reflecting on what it was that had moved him so much about jazz, instilled the desire to dedicate his life to this music, Matthias Winckelmann said: “I also listened to a lot of classical music. But that was a completely different world. Of course, the rhythm was completely different, but also the harmonies. The way jazz is impulsive, the on-the-spot in jazz, that’s what I found fascinating. That you suddenly become aware: Who is this playing. What kind of person is this? As with a great actor – it immediately sets you thinking.”
LINK: 2011 interview with Bob Hatteau of Allaboutjazz on the label’s 40th anniversary
The late sound engineer David Baker, who worked with Winckelmann far more often than I did, insightfully characterized Matthias as a master ‘hands-off’ (as contrasted with ‘hands-on’) producer. In the dozens of recording sessions I photographed for ENJA over 30+ years, Matthias’ standard studio operating procedure was to create a benign world sealed off unto itself, one where the musicians could freely go about doing their best work with minimal distraction. He was always constructively supportive, more patient than driven, yet constantly focused, making sure the logistics had all been addressed. Beyond that, he stayed as far out of the way as he could to let the music unfold. And unfold it did. ENJA albums span a wide spectrum, thanks to Matthias’ big ears. Music has lost a good friend,
Beautifully put, Patrick. In sadness.
Matthias had the vision to release 6 albums by Kate and Mike Westbrook. Mike Westbrook’s tribute to him is on our notice board. https://www.westbrookjazz.co.uk/smithsboard/June2022.shtml