We tend to get bogged down in the idea of music being about genres and target demographics, styles and careers, perhaps even fame and fortune. But music is at its best, most powerful, most enjoyable when it ignores all of those things. Music is at its most potent and most magical when it is about inclusivity, boundary hopping (better still boundary blindness), when it encompasses all ages and abilities, cultures and callings. When it is fun, both to watch and to be part of. And nowhere is there a better example of this in action than when watching Eddie Gale’s Inner Peace Orchestra perform.
It is easy to wax lyrical about Eddie Gale. He shared stages with everyone from Sun Ra to Coltrane, had tales for every topic, from jazz, life and creativity to ghettos, cops, the ’60s and of course of performing and rubbing shoulders with fellow jazz icons. He was a teacher as well as a musician and band leader, often blurring the boundaries by showcasing students in his live improv sets. In short he was everything that you expect a seasoned jazz veteran to be. But as always it was the music which spoke the loudest, as this wonderfully eclectic performance shows.
Starting with a youth choir taking centre stage, with the man himself provides the sweet solo, the music is smooth and soulful, gently hypnotic, chiming and charming before the band slips into the wonderfully life-affirming Skip, which frees up the young choir to do what young children do best…have fun, be free… frolic! And that in a nut shell shows Eddie Gale’s mission, to make sure that the musical baton is passed on from one generation to the next.
The Rain, a song from Gale’s first album as a band leader back in 1968, follows, with Horace Mann student Marley Desantis’ piano sat at the eye of this sensual, gentle, musical storm as a plaintiff trumpet sonically dances with it and the song graciously ebbs and flows to incorporate all manner of instrumentation and even allows room for delicate dance moves.
The more cynical amongst us might see this as just another youth showcase, highlighting the talents of the students against a backdrop of seasoned performers acting as a safety net. The more astute will see it as something more. Much more. Beating at the heart of such a show is everything that music is all about. It is the gift being nurtured and celebrated across generations, across styles, across potential. Some on that stage might never again engage with music so passionately as they head into adult lives but will look on such times with unparalleled fondness. Others might mark such moments as the springboard to a life and career in music. Both outcomes are equally valid, as is every point in between.
Eddie Gale’s magic comes from knowing that there is no real difference, that music is about being in a moment, that it is something that everyone should at least try at some point in their life, the earlier the better. You can say many things about Eddie Gale, you can give him all manner of titles, job descriptions, accolades and awards but I suspect the one that he would be proudest of would be to simply be known as “Teacher.”