Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music
01. The Rain 6:23
02. Fulton Street 6:47
03. A Understanding 7:50
04. A Walk With Thee 6:06
05. The Coming Of Gwilu 13:37
Bass – James "Tokio" Reid, Judah Samuel
Drums – Richard Hackett, Thomas Holman
Lead Vocals – Elaine Beener, Joann Gale (tracks: A1)
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Russell Lyle
Trumpet, Steel Drums, Piano – Eddie Gale
Vocals – Art Jenkins, Barbara Dove, Edward Walrond, Evelyn Goodwin, Fulumi Prince, Mildred Weston, Norman Right, Sondra Walston, Sylvia Bibbs
Recorded at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 20, 1968
The aesthetic and cultural merits of Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music cannot be overstated. That it is one of the most obscure recordings in Blue Note's catalog -- paid for out of label co-founder Francis Wolff's own pocket -- should tell us something. This is an apocryphal album, one that seamlessly blends the new jazz of the '60s -- Gale was a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra before and after these sides, and played on Cecil Taylor's Blue Note debut, Unit Structures -- with gospel, soul, and the blues. Gale's sextet included two bass players and two drummers -- in 1968 -- as well as a chorus of 11 voices, male and female. Sound like a mess? Far from it. This is some of the most spiritually engaged, forward-thinking, and finely wrought music of 1968. What's more is that, unlike lots of post-Coltrane free jazz, it's ultimately very listenable. Soloists come and go, but modes, melodies, and harmonies remain firmly intact. The beautiful strains of African folk music and Latin jazz sounds in "Fulton Street," for example, create a veritable chromatic rainbow. "A Walk with Thee" is a spiritual written to a march tempo with drummers playing counterpoint to one another and the front line creating elongated melodic lines via an Eastern harmonic sensibility. The final cut, "The Coming of Gwilu," moves from the tribal to the urban and everywhere in between using Jamaican thumb piano's, soaring vocals à la the Arkestra, polyrhythmic invention, and good, old-fashioned groove jazz, making something entirely new in the process. While Albert Ayler's New Grass was a failure for all its adventurousness, Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music, while a bit narrower in scope, succeeds because it concentrates on creating a space for the myriad voices of an emerging African-American cultural force to be heard in a single architecture. This is militant music posessed by soul and spirit.
It is often difficult to gauge the relative importance or message of an artwork, years or decades after its initial release. Truly impressive are those works that not only retain their Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, but also find relevance and significance with the present. Listening to the re-release of 1968's Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music, one not only senses the social awakening of the late 1960s, there is an equal and unfortunate awareness of our current cultural waste. Francis Wolff, co-founder of Blue Note, felt so strongly about this album that he personally financed the production and release of this music in 1968, after recording Gale on Cecil Taylor's Unit Structures and Larry Young's Of Love and Peace.
Along with its companion piece, Black Rhythm Happening, Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music fell victim to the chaos following Liberty Records' takeover of Blue Note. Both pieces never appeared beyond their initial releases, until now.
The good people at San Francisco-based Water Music have taken the initiative and re-released Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music on CD. The success of the album stems from its unique use of folk, blues, gospel, soul and jazz to create a wildly vibrant, urban force. "The Rain," with Joan Gale's soft, assured delivery, sets the pace for the entire album, as it morphs from a single guitar strum into a massive entity of sound, rhythm, and swing. Surprising, since 17 musicians appear on the album, is the precision and efficiency of the music.
On "Fulton Street," for example, the feel of the famous Brooklyn street is captured immediately by the child-like voices pronouncing its name proudly: "Fulton Street, baby!" Then, the low down riff comes in, the singers mimic the sound of the horns, they interchange riffs, and someone runs here, somebody else goes there, and you feel it, you're on Fulton Street, baby. It welcomes you.
Once in, it may well be difficult to relinquish the sensation of songs like "A Walk With Thee" or "The Coming of Gwilu." Both burn as deep, groove as hard, as anything else on the vaunted Blue Note catalog. For that reason, those that rarely venture outside the hard bop fringes of Blue Note will be most rewarded by the music here, as it presents new possibilities without abandoning the "Blue Note sound."