The Bay Area's unsung hero of avant-garde jazz, trumpeter Eddie Gale has the pedigree and the vision to spread the gospel of free thinking to the region's most unlikely audiences. A Brooklyn native, the young horn player was on the New York scene during the music's revolutionary shift in the '60s toward more radical, open-ended forms. His budding style — a raw mix of power and finesse, paint-peeling blowouts and bluesy lyricism — caught the ears of new-jazz pioneers Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, and John Coltrane, who performed with the trumpeter on occasion in various combos. While still in his 20s, Gale not only shared the stage and recorded with some of the music's bona fide legends, but he also released a number of well-received albums as a leader on Blue Note Records.
Gale abruptly abandoned the wildness of the spotlight for the security of institutional pedagogy when he was already well on his way toward avant-garde infamy. Taking advantage of an artist-in-residence offer from Stanford, he moved to California in 1970 to start a new life. A couple of years later, he relocated to the South Bay, where he still resides. Though he's been active in San Jose for years, hosting workshops for local youth, his appearances in the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley nexus have been scant — until now. Using a state residency grant, Eddie Gale is introducing free-jazz and improvisation concepts to East Bay teens in the public schools, and at a Monday-night improv workshop at the Black Dot Arts Collective in East Oakland. He's also firing up the local scene with his Inner Peace Orchestra and Quintet, the latter of which appears tonight as part of a fledgling creative-music series at Berkeley's indie-rock haven the Starry Plough.
The Eddie Gale Quintet performs two sets on Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. (Marco Eneidi Sextet opens the show at 8:30 p.m.) at the Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Tickets are $5-10 sliding scale; call (510) 841-2082.