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Black Rhythm Happening (1969)

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Elvin Jones

Love it or hate it, trumpeter Eddie Gale's second Blue Note outing as a leader is one of the most adventurous recordings to come out of the 1960s. Black Rhythm Happening picks up where Ghetto Music left off, in that it takes the soul and free jazz elements of his debut and adds to them the sound of the church in all its guises -- from joyous call and response celebration on the title track (and album opener), to the mournful funeral sounds of "Song of Will," to the determined Afro-Latin-style chanting on "Mexico Thing" that brings the pre-Tommy Dorsey gospel to the revolutionary song style prevalent in Zapata's Mexico -- all thanks to the Eddie Gale Singers. Elsewhere, wild smatterings of hard and post-bop ("Ghetto Love Night") and angular modal music ("Ghetto Summertime," featuring Elvin Jones on drums and Joann Stevens-Gale on guitar), turn the jazz paradigm of the era inside out, simultaneously admitting everything in a coherent, wonderfully ambitious whole. There is no doubt that Archie Shepp listened to both Ghetto Music and Black Rhythm Happening before setting out to assemble his Attica Blues project. The album closes with "Look at Teyonda," a sprawling exercise in the deep melding of African and Latin folk musics with the folk-blues, flamenco, and jazz rhythms. Funky horns (courtesy of Gale, Russell Lyle, and Roland Alexander) moan toward Fulumi Prince's startlingly beautiful vocal. Stevens-Gale's guitar whispers the tune into the field before the saxophones and brass come to get it, and when they do, long open lines are offered slowly and deliberately, as Jones' shimmering ride cymbals triple-time the beat into something wholly Other. Black Rhythm Happening is a timeless, breathtaking recording, one that sounds as forward-thinking and militant in the 21st century as it did in 1969. ~ Thom Jurek