Eric Gale (guitar) with various accompanists
Recorded 1976 and 1977 [73:50]
Guitarist Eric Gale made a large series of discs
but only a very few were made under his name. For so prolific a player
– he’s reckoned to have played on over 500 LPs – the meagre return
is a dozen discs as leader. That’s hardly a unique occurrence of course,
and many a great sideman has never been allowed to shine, his name
emblazoned on the cover or jacket of a disc. But Gale, the ‘frustrated
saxophone player’ certainly enjoyed a degree of exposure in these
two LPs made in the mid 1970s.
The accompanying musicians are many and various.
Foremost is Grover Washington Jr – foremost in the degree of his contributions
– but accomplished musicians like Steve Gadd, Bob James, Richard Tee
and Hank Crawford (on the second album, Multiplication) all
make their presence felt. So too does the large vocal contribution,
somewhat on the groovy side of things, and the horn section, heard
really only as colour backing – which is a great shame as sitting
relatively idle in its ranks were Jon Faddis, Lew Soloff, Randy Brecker,
Eddie Daniels, and Jerry Dodgion. Mention must also be made of the
large string section on some tracks in both LPs; they were led by
the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, the exceptional David
Nadien and I only need to add the names of the following to show the
consummate, if underused, musicianship available to studio bookers;
Pollikoff, Lookofsky, Alsop, Kohon, Vardi (Emanuel), Shulman et al.
Ginseng Woman is the weaker of the two
albums. It has a busy soul vibe in places, notably the title track,
and sports music that strongly reflects Gale’s Barbadian heritage.
Washington’s use of the tin whistle in Red Ground is novel.
There’s a heavy production on Sara Smile with its Reggae
hues and overdubbed vocals and understated Gale solo. Catchy but insistent,
De Rabbit exemplifies both the strengths (catchy Calypso
riffs) and the limitations (too samey) of Gale’s approach, and also
the arranging of Bob James.
For the second album there is more of a theme in
mind. The set opens with a Spiritual with a Gospel cum Soul solo that
sits appropriately. Thumper is an ebullient tribute to the
clarity of Gale’s playing whilst Washington shines on the Lee Ritenour
song, Morning Glory. Throughout this particular album, arrangements
are tight and there is a far more convincing feeling of identification
with the material – which is also stronger. Symmetrically, the LP
ended, and so does this well filled disc, with Sometimes I Feel
Like A Motherless Child which, whilst not at all Down Home, is
more rootsy than anything in Ginseng Woman. It’s Hank Crawford
who takes the committed alto sax solo here. It ends the disc on a