Eric Gales: It Just Beez That Way!
Eric Gales has said, “it’s very, very possible to bring together white, black, woman, man, all races, all creeds together. We are all but one human race - am I right?” Even though he proudly carries the label of “blues” musician, his music is likewise all inclusive, including elements of funk, folk, hip-hop, pop, and even a few classical interludes, and, Lord knows, if this were a white group playing the exact same music it would probably be categorized as a rock ‘n’ roll band. The virtuoso guitarist knows how to make an entrance - with a bassist and two percussionists (one of whom is his wife, LaDonna Gales) heralding his arrival. Mr. Gales himself is many things, guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, bandleader, but it all boils down to one objective - entertaining an audience, doing whatever it takes to get them on their feet and cheering. The Iridium, like most of the clubs and concert halls he plays, is a sit-down venue with tables and chairs and no space for dancing, but the blues is still fundamentally a dance music, he considers it a personal mission to get everyone standing up and moving.
His music covers all aspects of the blues, focusing on tunes from his current album, The Bookends, released earlier this year, such as “How Do I Get You?,” a ballad of unrequited love in basic blues form. Whereas “Southpaw Serenade” is a tale of how being left-handed is a metaphor for being different and standing out from the crowd, in ways that are both bad and good (it could be subtitled, “The Left Hand of God”); in performance, Mr. Gales stretches “Southpaw” out to rhapsodic length, and put it through many key and tempo changes, to the point where, as an extended composition, of the sort that could be orchestrated by Ed Palermo much the same way he has done for the music of Jaco Pastorious and Frank Zappa. Alas, Beth Hart, who makes a guest appearance on the album, wasn’t present, thus denying us the chance to hear his wondrous interpretation of “With a Little Help from My Friends,” an even bluesier expansion of the iconic Joe Cocker Woodstock version. (Next time for that, and also his miraculous mash-up of “Voodoo Child” and “Fur Elise,” thus bringing Hendrix and Beethoven, Jimi and Ludwig, together on the same page.)
Also heard on Bookends, his climactic number, “It Just Beez That Way,” intermixes a backing vocal track amidst the live performance in a manner that smacks of old school funk. First he built it up to a stratospheric pitch of excitement, then plunged into a steep diminuendo, in which the other members of the quartet gradually left the stage, one by one, leaving Mr. Gales alone in front of us - now playing drums rather than guitar. If that wasn’t enough, as the other musicians returned, he also took a solo on bass. Eric Gales, who encouraged the crowd to follow him on “Book Face and Twatter,” is a musician of great energy as well as subtlety. It just beez that way.