San Francisco Chronicle
Gale lends a hand by sharing his music with students
Between recording, performing and touring with some of the world’s finest musicians, including Miles Davis, Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra, trumpeter Eddie Gale has mentored young musicians and promoted multiculturalism and world peace through jazz.
Gale, who was proclaimed as San Jose’s ambassador of jazz by Mayor Norman Mineta in 1974, organized the Evergreen Youth Adult Jazz Society, the We’re Jazzed! Youth/Adult Jazz Festival and the annual Concert for World Peace and Peace Poetry Contest. Gale has set up musical improvisation workshops at San Jose State University and has worked with Music in Our Schools, in response to budget cuts in arts programs in public schools.
In 2001, Gale received the Sankofa Award for 25 years of service from the California Arts Council, where he was artist in residence for three years. At 65, Gale, who lives in San Jose with his second wife, Georgette, shows no indication of retiring. In August, Gale and his band played the San Jose Jazz festival, and he continues to perform around the country and work with young people.
Over the years, Gale has mentored Bay Area musicians, including Valerie Mih, a classically trained pianist who now plays in his ensemble, the Eddie Gale Now band. Mih met Gale six years ago when she participated in his weekly workshop at the Black Dot theater in Oakland, sponsored by the California Arts Council.
“I was one of the few women there,” said Mih, 35. “(Eddie) was really encouraging from the start. He encouraged me to keep attending the jam sessions, and he eventually asked me to join his band. I’ve learned that jazz music takes many forms. We play both straight-ahead and traditional jazz. We play avant-garde and spiritual jazz that has some meditative elements. In his jazz workshops, most of the time, we were doing free improvisation, which was a complement to my classical training. One of the main things I’ve learned from him is how to listen to what other musicians are doing and respond in the moment.”
Gale, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, began playing the trumpet, flugelhorn and cornet as a member of the Cub Scouts Troop 219 marching band. He continued to play through his time with the Explorers scout troop.
“In those days, the goal was to graduate from high school and then get a civil service job, working for the city in some capacity,” said the raspy-voiced musician. “A lot of the scouts did that, but I stuck with music.”
Gale received private music lessons from an established trumpeter named Kenny Dorham. His mentors included Sun Ra, Taylor and Illinois Jacquet, and Gale sat in with jazz greats such as Sunny Stitt.
“I was fortunate, because in those days, the musicians were available to young people, if you were really into it,” he said. “At some of the jam sessions and at af- ter-hours clubs, you’d get involved by sitting in. These days, they don’t have that ability to learn directly from the masters.”
Gale recognized his ability to connect with young people as a teenager in New York.
“I became a father very early, at age 17,” said Gale, who has six children and 12 grandchildren. “I went to the schools that my children attended and played there before I came to California. That became part of my style — helping young people — because I got a lot of help growing up with music myself.”
Gale and his family moved to San Jose in 1972. He first visited the Bay Area during a gig with Taylor in 1957.
“I was a Stanford resident for three weeks to a month,” said Gale. “We played the Berkeley Jazz Festival that Miles Davis headed up at the time. During my time in the Bay Area, I made friends with some of the students at Stanford. Some of them came to New York and heard me play at a club. They suggested that I come back out there and bring my band. They had a program called the Black Family. I stayed on and some people offered me a home in San Jose, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Gale’s expansive discography includes full-length recordings such as “Secrets of the Sun” (Saturn Records, 1965), “Of Love and Peace” (Blue Note Records, 1966), “Lanquidity” (Philly Jazz Records 1978), “The Other Side of the Sun” (Sweet Earth Records, 1978) and “On Jupiter” (Saturn, 1979).
In keeping with his mantra of inner peace, Gale is particularly proud of the Concert for World Peace and Peace Poetry Contest, which was held at the Martin Luther King Library in San Jose in September. The concerts, multicultural showcases for young artists, started out 10 years ago at San Jose State University.
The first participants were high school students, said Gale. “We had the students organize the whole day, and they invited other schools to send representation to their school for world peace.
“The incentive is to get young people to understand that in their lives and in their communities, there are people who don’t just talk about it, but do something to try to create world peace. We hope that some of the young people, when they become adults and go into their chosen fields, that they will help make better decisions about life because of having some kind of involvement.”
For information on Eddie Gale’s jazz programs, call (408) 294-3173 or visit www.eddiegale. com. E-mail Shelah Moody at smoody @sfchronicle.com.