Gallery: s/t (ECM 1206)

 

Gallery

David Samuels vibraharp, percussion
Michael DiPasqua drums, percussion
Paul McCandless soprano saxophone, oboe, english horn
David Darling cello
Ratzo Harris bass
Recorded May 1981 at Sound Ideas Studio, New York
Engineer: David Baker
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Another enigmatic outlier in the land of the as-yet-to-be-reissued, Gallery follows in the tender footsteps of First Avenue. Its talents are immediately sent skyward in “Soaring,” where the sprightly vibes of Dave Samuels find complement in bassist Ratzo Harris and cellist David Darling, both of whom roll off Michael DiPasqua’s delicate snare and cymbals like words from a poet’s tongue. Darling takes some of the album’s most gorgeous improvisatory turns here. His fluid lines continue in “Prelude,” a duet with Samuels that shares the same breath with “A Lost Game.” The latter is transitory, not unlike the album as a whole, playing out especially in the rhythmic crosspollination between vibes and drums, slung ever so delicately by the bass’s curves. Paul McCandless lays the gold foil of his own beauties with a soprano sax solo that takes this configuration to greater heights, surpassed only by the reflective cello that follows. “Painting” sounds like a Gavin Bryars ensemble piece, unfolding into the remnants of a Morton Feldman dream before awakening in the harmonic contract of a “Pale Sun.” On then does the “Egret” drop us in limpid vibrations, where only a hushed “Night Rain” shows us the final trail.

As the album’s title indicates, this music offers a row of artful images. Yet rather than guide us through a linear passage of creative relics, it brings that passage to us, so that we need only observe…and listen.

Ralph Towner with Glen Moore: Trios/Solos (ECM 1025)

 

Ralph Towner with Glen Moore
Trios/Solos

Ralph Towner guitar, piano
Glen Moore bass
Paul McCandless oboe
Collin Walcott tabla
Recorded November 27/28, 1972 at Sound Ideas Studio, New York City
Engineer: George Klabin
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Essentially an Oregon album under a different name, Trios/Solos consists mainly of Ralph Towner originals culled from the group’s Vanguard sessions. The opening “Brujo” is anchored by Towner’s twelve mighty strings and the late Collin Walcott’s tabla stylings, leaving a winding crevice through which Glen Moore works his whimsical bass. “Noctuary” features Paul McCandless on oboe, soaring loosely through the Towner/Moore fulcrum before the trio ties itself into a tightly improvised not. The Bill Evans tune “Re: Person I Knew” stands out in a gorgeous rendition. Towner doubles on piano and 12-string—laying down a sound that would soon crystallize into his classic ECM album Solstice—as Moore lurks in the background. “Raven’s Wood” continues the same configuration, only this time with nylon, darkening its pastoral modality with nocturnal visions.

Despite the intimate wonders of these trios, the album’s titular solos abound with some of its most focused and furthest-reaching moments. Moore’s “A Belt Of Asteroids” is a curious one at that. Seeming at first out of place in its present company, it carefully peels open the album’s outer layers with every twang. The remainders feature Towner doing what he does best. Take the compact “Suite: 3×12,” a carefully thought out composition in which his palpable picking and love for harmonics shines through at every turn, not to mention his consistently progressive energy. The last of the three movements is more aggressive in its attack and wound around a precise rhythmic core. “Winter Light” is heavily steeped in 6-string nostalgia, lonely but content in its solitude. “1×12” is, by contrast, a run along a blazing trail. Lastly, we have “Reach Me, Friend,” a snapshot of expectation that breathes with audible resolve.

As the driving force behind the album, Towner’s technique is mellifluous as usual, forging an aerial sound that constantly surveys the untouched lakes shimmering below like mirrors in the brilliance of his execution. Despite the lush performances throughout, the imagery is all so viscerally sere. And while there is no danger in what we see, there remains a threat unseen, lingering just beyond the horizon, quelled only by the arrival of the morning sun.