Chad Makela Quartet: Flicker (2006)
If a cross between the Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker and the Ornette Coleman Quartet with Don Cherry had ever been fashioned, it might have sounded something like Flicker. However, such idle conjecture distracts from the fact that this is a group with its own identity, and the fact that six of the seven tracks here run to over eight minutes, three of them topping the ten minute mark, does not make for musical tedium simply because this band likes to work.
The quartet's level of inspiration on this particular night was happily high, and what makes for further listening pleasure is the fact that both Chad Makela (baritone sax) and Brad Turner (trumpet) ultimately sound like no one but themselves on this live recording. Add to this the contrast between them in terms of sound and instrumental conception, and it comes down to the fact that any limitations inherent in such a lineup are easily transcended.
Four of the tracks come from Makela's pen, and of these "Comfort Level incorporates both an offbeat theme and wide-open spaces for improvisation in which Turner in particular gambols with abandon, sounding not unlike an abstract Donald Byrd. "Seventh Day Rain is also something of a mood piece, and in this case the mood is perhaps unsurprisingly forlorn, allowing Makela the room to maximise the nuances of his sound and drummer Jesse Cahill to demonstrate his ability as a master of instrumental colour.
Without in any way trying to compensate for the lack of harmonic underpinning that is inherent in any group without a piano or guitar, bassist Paul Rushka is all over this date in a way that maximises the role of the bass at the same time as it doesn't interrupt the flow of the music.
This is ultimately substantial music that rewards repeated listening, not least because the duration of the tracks doesn't equate with any lessening of inspiration. In its modest way it offers an object lesson in the art of not playing for the sake of playing, and as such is a valuable template.
Track Listing: Flicker; Comfort Level; Secret Code; Seventh Day Rain; Underdog; My Ideal; Uprising.
Personnel: Chad Makela: baritone saxophone; Brad Turner: trumpet; Paul Rushka: bass; Jesse Cahill: drums.