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Eddie Gale at San Jose Summer Jazz Fest

In Music
GALE FORCE: San Jose resident Eddie Gale has recorded with Coltrane, played with Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, and everyone in between.

GALE FORCE: San Jose resident Eddie Gale has recorded with Coltrane, played with Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, and everyone in between.

Hanging with trumpeter Eddie Gale tends to unearth a different version of San Jose history than what you’ll hear from anyone else bouncing around the periphery of the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest. First of all, he is the only person alive in San Jose to have recorded with John Coltrane. He also jammed with Cecil Taylor and Byron Allen. At times, he ran with Louie Bellson and Dizzy Gillespie. He even toured with Sun Ra. For a spell of a few years, his drummer was Sammy Cohen, who later spent years writing music stories for Metro.

At the Summer Fest, when employees are driving golf carts back and forth between the stages, when the equivalent of a border fence encircles Plaza de Cesar Chavez, when R&B stars from 40 years ago are getting tens of thousands, and where hat vendors are more plentiful than free improv gigs, one immediately wonders why Eddie Gale has not been part of the whole shootin’ match since day one. He was living in San Jose before the San Jose Jazz Society even existed, but he hasn’t performed at the festival in many, many years.

In any event, Gale is sort of like quantum physics. You don’t have to sort it all out. But a few things rise to the surface in terms of history. After playing spiritual jazz as a Stanford artist in residence, Gale came to San Jose in 1972 and never left.

“I didn’t know San Jose except for the song,” he tells me, as we slug coffee in his front yard. He’s got decaf, me regular.

Soon enough, as he spins a matrix of rocking stories, Gale, 76, reminds me that in 1974, San Jose mayor Norman Mineta issued him the official title of San Jose’s Ambassador of Jazz. This may sound superfluous, but it’s not. To wit, the hallway leading from his front door back toward the rear of his house is a veritable museum. I see dozens of photos, awards and certificates, plus magazine stories, posters, ads and other accolades going back to the ’60s. I see shots of Gale with Bud Powell, Byron Allen, Sun Ra and Dizzy. There’s also a poster from the 50th anniversary of the UN, an event at which Gale’s band played.

Speaking of the United Nations, Gale’s music has always been infused with peace and spirituality, especially when it comes to experimentalism. At the Summer Fest this year, his nine-piece ensemble will bring at least 40 different percussion instruments and hand them out to the audience for specific numbers. Everyone will be invited to participate, inner peace being the theme. To Gale, even though jazz is an American art form, his music connects to everyone’s inner peace, no matter your country of origin. There’s no reason to put a border around the US and block out the rest of the planet’s music. This will be the theme of the night.

“Inner peace, in America and the world,” he tells me.

Eddie Gale
Aug 10, 8:30pm, All Stages Wristband
Adobe Silicon Valley Stage

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