CTI Records


Eric Gale (born on September 20, 1938, of Barbadian parents, in Brooklyn, NY,) recorded over 500 albums as sideman, backing such stars as Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Dianna Ross, Paul Simon, Lena Horne, Michel Legrand, Quincy Jones, Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Joe Cocker, Carly Simon, Van Morrison, Milton Nascimento, Billy Joel, Gato Barbieri and Mongo Santamaria, to name a few.

Gale’s association with Creed Taylor began when the celebrated producer was working at Verve Records. Curiously, their first sessions together, on August 18 and October 24, 1966, were part of a Johnny Hodges album titled Blue Notes; a very peculiar name for a Verve LP!

During the A&M/CTI years, Eric Gale was heard on albums by Herbie Mann, Soul Flutes, Richard Barbary, Quincy Jones, and J.J. Johnson & Kai Winding. When CTI became a completely independent label, he became the house guitarist for one of its subsidiary labels, Kudu Records, appearing on the first album issued under the Kudu logo: Johnny Hammond’s Breakout. Many other sessions followed and, on January 1973, Creed Taylor finally allowed him to record as a leader.

Forecast may not have been the big commercial success everyone at CTI/Kudu anticipated, but it has not damaged Gale’s relationship with Creed Taylor. The main reason for the poor sales was that, instead of doing a typical soul-jazz session spiced with funky grooves, covering many r&b hits, Gale opted to record several of his own compositions and only one pop song (Killing Me Softly), using different beats and moods throughout the album.

The opening track is a short and easy-listening version of Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly huge pop hit. The beautiful sound on the intro comes from Tony Studd’s baritone horn, a seldom heard instrument nowadays. Bob James, who signs the opulent orchestration, plays electric piano with a very light touch, assisted by Gordon Edwards on electric bass and Rick Marotta on drums.

Undoubtedly the album highlight, Eric Gale’s Cleopatra is a delightful calypso-tinged tune, propelled by Ralph MacDonald doubling on congas and various Latin percussion instruments. There are irreproachable solos by Gale and Hubert Laws, on piccolo! The joyful horn arrangement completes the atmosphere of a street party in St. Thomas. During the tag, Gale and Laws continue to stretch out in a vivacious interplay.

A totally unpredictable version of Dindi follows. Composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim & Aloysio de Oliveira, introduced by singer Sylvia Telles on her famous Amor de Gente Moça album in 1959, this bossa nova ballad receives a breath of fresh air thanks to Gale’s approach. The guitarist doesn’t play it with a bossa beat. Instead, he treats Jobim’s elegant melody like a jazzy pop ballad played in a very slow tempo. Bob James adds some subtle strings that doesn’t disturb the dreamy mood of the track.

The three remaining songs are all by Eric Gale: the r&b-flavored  White Moth, the afro-reggae Tonsue Corte (including a brief but admirable Hubert Laws solo, Bob James playing the bass-marimba near the end of the track, and Arthur Jenkins replacing Ralph MacDonald on percussion) and the title track, Forecast, built upon an intoxicating funk-rock riff. Additional showcases of Gale’s highly personal sound and instantly recognizable style.

The first time I met Eric Gale, I asked him which was his favorite recording for Creed Taylor. I could bet he would say something like I can’t choose only one or it’s hard to remember. However, for my surprise, Gale answered that it was a version of Where Is The Love from Grover Washington, Jr.’s second album for Kudu, All The King’s Horses in 1972. He told me: “We had only five minutes to finish that session at Van Gelder’s studio, and Creed wanted us to do that track. During my solo, I simply developed it in a way completely different from what Creed wanted. I was playing bebop phrases and Creed became so nervous that he began to talk to my earphones from the microphone in the control room: play the blues, Eric, play some blues lines...But I remained doing what I was doing, because I knew there would be no time for another take. I was trying not to laugh, but Creed became mad with me anyway. For my luck, everybody else in the studio loved the track!”

Even after Eric Gale signed with Columbia, he continued to record as a sideman for Creed. Besides performing as rhythm guitarist on George Benson’s sessions which yielded the albums Good King Bad, Benson & Farrell, and Pacific Fire, he appeared as a featured soloist on Bob James’ last album for CTI, BJ 4, as well as on Lalo Schifrin’s two albums for CTI in 1976, Black Widow and Towering Toccata.  For Kudu, Gale kept recording until 1977, on albums by Grover Washington, Jr. (Soul Box, Mister Magic, Feels So Good, A Secret Place), Esther Phillips (Capricorn Princess), Idris Muhammad (House of The Rising Sun, Turn This Mutha Out), and Hank Crawford (I Hear A Symphony, Hank Crawford’s Back, Tico Rico). Then, in September 1981, he was reunited again with Creed Taylor during the sessions for Silk, the second album by the all-star project Fuse One.

Gale’s big popularity in Japan is mainly the result of many tours with the legendary Stuff group (which did a best-selling live album at Yubin-Chokin Hall in 1978), Sadao Watanabe (How’s Everything – Live at Budokan in 1980) and Dave Grusin (Grusin and The NY-LA Dream Band, also at Budokan, in 1982). He continued to tour Japan regularly, sometimes three times a year, until 1993. In 1994, soon after performing on Al Jarreau’s Tenderness album (fortunately documented on video), Gale passed away on May 25, 1994, in Baja, California. The few obituaries (less than 10 lines in Down Beat!) referred to him only as a respected studio guitarist. But, according to Brazilian percussionist Dom Um Romao, who pays tribute to Gale on his latest album, Lake of Perseverance, which includes a song titled Eric’s Stuff, Eric Gale will live forever, in the heart of his fans, as a brilliant musician who contributed to the success of many careers in all genres and styles”.

Arnaldo DeSouteiro
Petropolis, May 28, 2001

Mr. DeSouteiro is Brazil’s top jazz producer and CTI historian