Gallery is ecm 1206. It has never been released to cd. Why is this? Does the world really need another box set of Ella's greatest hits? If there are indeed some of you out there who have yet to buy one, please do so quickly, so the music industry can get to the lost ecm treasures like this one, by far my most wished-for cd rerelease (altho by now I've listened to it so many times I would never actually play the cd if I bought it...)
The first song is the most apt musical description of a bird in flight I've ever heard. A vibraphone (Dave Samuels) repeats a broken chord of F minor and cello and oboe take over melody, with that classic ecm sound of slow musical patterns soaring over a 16th note beat, slow over fast (Michael DiPasqua, percussion, Ratzo Harris, bass). The use of cello (David Darling) creates a plaintive sound throughout the album. Frequent modulations are the 'key' to this song, every phrase is succeeded by a change into another unrelated minor key, exactly the kind of unexpectedness that makes good jazz or prog so intellectually recharging.
The second song "Prelude" sounds like a Chick Corea composition as in his children's pieces but quite classical influenced being played by cello with vibes accompaniment. "Painting" consists of maddeningly complex chords gradually transfiguring into one another, like a roomful of Rothkos maybe. In "Pale Sun" a soprano sax dialogues with the cello evoking those old sci-fi paintings of white dwarfs sunrising over cold dead planets. "Egret" returns to the ornithological exposition, cello melody, flightlike song structure. When I hear these albums it saddens me to think someone spent so much time writing these elaborate compositions, probably months committing them to paper, after likely years of musical training, only to be lost to the fourth dimension. I would like to live to hear these musical works being performed at the local symphony hall by a chamber group. Well, obviously that's a crazy dream.
There is not a single throwaway song. The cohesiveness of the composition and style are remarkable. One must mention the cover art as well, a very beautiful image, almost a cartoon in black and white on a greying page: a yellow clothed figure running away in the left upper quadrant appears to be watched by a quartet of shadows in the foreground and a streetlight, like a nineteen seventies Georgio di Chirico, enigma of the late dusk. A mysterious quatrain is handwritten below the image.