About Eddie Gale
Having developed his skills among the cream of New York's hard bop players, Eddie Gale helped ring in jazz's controversial "New Thing" during the 1960s and '70s on a series of influential releases. His inspired trumpet playing graced Cecil Taylor's Unit Structures, Larry Young's Of Love and Peace, and a series of recordings and performances with the Sun Ra Arkestra. He also cut a pair of long under-noticed solo albums under his own name for Blue Note: Ghetto Music in 1968 and Black Rhythm Happening the following year. Gale's integration of free jazz with blues, gospel, and soul music was received well by critics at the time, but fell out of circulation quickly. They became widely recognized jazz classics at the end of the century and were reissued several times. He continued to tour and record with Sun Ra and to teach. Gale recorded only sporadically under his own name: A Minute with Miles, didn't appear until 1992. Several albums including Afro Fire and In Love Again were issued in the 21st century.
Born in Brooklyn in 1941, Eddie Gale experienced the world of jazz firsthand through the borough's community of jazz musicians. The great bebop pianist Bud Powell lived nearby and occasionally stopped outside the young musician's house to hear him practice. Gale received lessons from trumpeter Kenny Dorham and before long was sitting in on jam sessions with the likes of drummers Art Blakey and Max Roach and saxophonists Illinois Jacquet, Sonny Stitt, and Jackie McLean. During these years, Gale absorbed the styles of the trumpet greats from pioneers like Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie to hard bop practitioners like Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, and Freddie Hubbard. Though these musicians made a lasting impression, Gale came of age during the dawn of jazz's New Thing. John Coltrane's 1965 album Ascension heralded the arrival of a new generation of players like Eric Dolphy, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, and Pharoah Sanders. The new sounds made a strong impression on the young musician. Though he never recorded with the great tenor saxophonist, Gale had the privilege of sharing the stage with Coltrane on a number of occasions.
In the early '60s, Gale (then in his early twenties) was introduced to composer, keyboardist, and intergalactic bandleader Sun Ra. Gale toured and recorded with the Sun Ra Arkestra throughout the '60s and '70s and remained in touch with Ra until his death in 1993. Ra's perplexing tutelage extended from practical musical instruction to lessons on subjects like Egyptology, phonetics, and hieroglyphics. Gale's trumpet can be heard on the Arkestra's 1965 recording Secrets of the Sun.
The year that followed was a major breakthrough for Gale. Cecil Taylor brought the trumpeter on board for the recording of the pianist's classic Blue Note debut, Unit Structures. As a part of a seven-piece ensemble, Gale played alongside alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, bassist Henry Grimes, and drummer Andrew Cyrille, some of the finest proponents of the developing free jazz. Following the date with Taylor, Gale joined organist Larry Young's group for the recording of Of Love and Peace. Besides having a direct impact on his developing sound, the recordings won the trumpeter an admirer in Blue Note co-founder Francis Wolff, who funded the release of Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music (1968) and Black Rhythm Happening (1969). For the sessions, Gale assembled a sextet and nonet, respectively, the latter of which included the great Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones and the soprano saxophone of Jimmy Lyons. On both dates, the ensemble was joined by an 11-piece vocal group dubbed the Noble Gale Singers. Combining the bebop and hard bop of his early teachers, the avant-garde sensibilities acquired from Taylor, and the soul-jazz fire of Young, Gale's music expertly bridged the gap between long-standing jazz traditions and the newer styles that attempted to shatter them. Unfortunately, with the transition of Blue Note into the hands of Liberty Records, Gale's contract was not renewed, thus ending a potentially fruitful partnership.
At the start of the '70s, Gale headed for the West Coast, where he eventually settled, connecting with a community of musicians in and around the California Bay Area. Following a brief stint as artist-in-residence at Stanford University, the trumpeter took the same position at the university in San Jose. As a result of Gale's work within the city's musical community, Mayor Norm Mineta proclaimed him San Jose's Ambassador of Jazz in 1974. Gale continued to perform and record with Sun Ra during the decade, playing on a series of late-'70s albums including Lanquidity, The Other Side of the Sun (both 1978), and On Jupiter (1979).
Though the trumpeter released few albums under his own name, he remained active and creative. In the decades that followed, his creative spirit kept him working in Sun Ra's orbit until the bandleader's death. In 1988, he independently released Live in San Jose, and two years later, Quiet Times & Inner Peace - A Tribute to the '90s with the Eddie Gale Unit for Roof Top. He also formed the Inner Peace Jazz Orchestra, who played locally and regionally. In 1993, Gale led a quintet that featured Larry Willis on piano; they released A Minute With Miles for Mapleshade.
Gale made numerous appearances with Oakland hip-hop outfit the Coup, whereby his trumpet could be heard engaging with the music's breakbeats and turntables and with rapper Bicasso (Josh Whitaker). In 2004, he issued Afro Fire, a collision of hip-hop, angular electro, funk, and jazz. It was the final release from U.K. jazz-funk label Black Beauty. Three years later, he was a co-billed collaborator with former Black Beauty labelmates Mushroom on Joint Happening for Hyena. Gale also digitally released the Latin- and Caribbean-flavored outing In Love Again. In 2010, he and keyboardist Lars Hidde digitally issued Ancestors Wailing, and in 2013 Sagittarius A-Star released his Inner Peace Suite, performed with the Inner Peace Orchestra and featuring Prince Lasha on flute. The digital-only Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music: The Remake and Beyond, with Inner Peace Orchestra and assorted vocalists, appeared in 2014. Three years later, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original release of Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music, a remastered collector's edition was offered via streaming. Eddie Gale died on July 10, 2020, in San Jose after a prolonged battle with prostate cancer; he was 78 years old. ~ Nathan Bush