Trumpeter Eddie Gale played on Cecil Taylor’s stunning Unit Structures (Blue Note, 1966) and he was a frequent member of Sun Ra’s Arkestra in the 1960s and ’70s. But it was his invaluable contributions to organist Larry Young’s 1966 Blue Note LP Of Love and Peace that caused the label’s Francis Wolff to cough up his own dough and stick Gale in the studio to record his debut as a leader, 1968’s Ghetto Music.
While the album came out on Blue Note, as did its 1969 follow-up, Black Rhythm Happening, the LPs came out at a time of serious transition at the label. By the time Blue Note left the hands of Wolff and Alfred Lion and went to United Artists, Gale’s contract was not renewed. These two albums have languished in the Blue Note vaults ever since, but the mysterious crew of folk known variously as Water Music (for CD reissues) and 4 Men With Beards (for cool-ass gatefold, 180-gram vinyl reissues) have picked up the slack and put these records back into circulation. (Why two different labels for the different formats? Just semantics, brah. Water Music and 4 Men With Beards appear to be run by the same gang.)
While Eddie Gale studied with Kenny Dorham, lived near Bud Powell and jammed with Art Blakey and Max Roach, he really found his voice during the New Thing. His two Blue Note albums show a trumpeter steeped in hard blues and gospel, but also one who has decided to integrate those sounds with funk and avant-jazz. The results? The sextet recording Ghetto Music and the nonent album Black Rhythm Happening. Those group sizes reflect just the instrumental players, however; both records feature a chorus called the Noble Gale Singers. (Are you feeling what these albums sound like yet? Do the words funky, deep, out and in mean anything to you?)
Ghetto Music features a relatively unknown core cast with reedist Russell Lyle, bassists Judah Samuel and James “Tokio” Reid and drummers Richard Hackett and Thomas Holman. With Black Rhythm Happening, Gale called in Samuel, bassist Henry Pearson, reedist Roland Alexander, alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons (billed as Jamie, and with whom the trumpeter played on Unit Structures), African percussionist John Robinson and some drummer named Elvin Jones.
If you’re torn about which format to buy, LP or CD, here’s a nugget that might help you decide (if portability isn’t an issue, or if your turntable is hooked up to a computer and you can burn a CD): The LP versions, in addition to being housed in amazing gatefold editions (printed on thick, glossy cardboard), have extra liner notes; the CDs only have the original words. (The vinyl versions feature the insights of Andrew Raffo Dewar, a saxophonist and ethnomusicologist.) Also, the LP version of Ghetto Music features a mini-poster, perfect for hanging on your dorm-room wall, of the band decked-out in garb that looks like homemade rain ponchos.
Data hounds, here are the track lists for both albums:
Ghetto Music (1968)
1. The Rain
2. Fulton Street
3. A Understanding
4. A Walk With Thee
5. The Coming of Gwilu
Black Rhythm Happening (1969)
1. Black Rhythm Happening
2. The Gleeker
3. Song of Will
4. Ghetto Love Night
5. Mexico Thing
6. Ghetto Summertime
7. It Must Be You
8. Look at Teyonda
Intrigued by all that is Eddie Gale? Check out his Web site, eddiegale.com. (Even if you haven’t been down with him, Gale has been working ever since his Blue Note releases, mostly in the Bay Area.)
Want more info on the people at Water Music and the dudes at 4 Men With Beards? Well, you won’t find it at their bare-bones Web site, but you can go there and find out how to order these beautifully packaged jams. Skip over to buyrunt.com
(You might be wondering why Blue Note didn’t reissue these albums itself. We don’t know, and unlike the conspiratorial Thom Jurek at Allmusic.com, we don’t care. We’re just happy they’re back for the buying.)Originally Published