Music that reaches the state of being timeless returns to the CD player over and over again. The Bruce Cale Quartet's Live at the Adelaide Festival is one of those very special releases. The music is 25 years old and sounds as fresh today as it must have sounded then. It also sounds much fresher and more vital than a lot of what is being put out today.
The recording happened on the last night of the Adelaide Festival, where the quartet had been playing for a week. Everything seems to just come together; the musicians lock in and play as a true group, and they are technicians of the highest order: the ones that use their gifts to serve the music. "Rolling Thunder" introduces pianist Roger Frampton, furiously supported by Cale on bass and Phil Treloar on drums. In a way this album is a homage to Frampton, who died in 2000 from a brain tumor. The music just roars out of the gate, and it stays there, pausing for breath for sure, but you know immediately that you are privy to one of those special alignments of the stars.
Live has the distinct feel of immediacy: it is live, but there is more to it than that. The musicians had been playing for a week, and while you can hear ordered arrangements, it is just as easy to hear flights of fancy, something offered by one player and picked up by another. It sounds unpredictable and it has that spark of the best jazz, the kind that has you leaving the club floating. What is also remarkable is that even after a number of listens that breathlessness still remains.
Cale is one of those melodic bass players who nevertheless has a propulsive quality that drives the band (think Mingus). He also is quite a composer, writing five of these six tunes. "Bells," the highlight of the set, is also the longest track at just over 18 minutes. From its first notes, a long time frame is set, predicting gradual development, with Frampton almost jumping out of his skin while we wait for Dale Barlow to try to answer the opening tremendous solo (including a quote from "Rhapsody in Blue"). Barlow, by the way, although not listed as playing soprano, sure sounds like he's using that instrument at times. Just twenty at the time, Barlow has been challenged, and indeed he rises to the occasion, going farther and farther out but never totally leaving this earth.
The liner notes are as enjoyable as the music, with much personal information given on each player. So, regardless whether you want to call this music post bop (that catch-all) or something else, it lit up the stage in 1980 and will surely floor you today. Enjoy!
Rolling Thunder (7:05), Cyber Herod (11:01), Listen to the Song of Life (8:06), Bells (18:12), Offering (5:51), Bindo (10:04)
Bruce Cale - bass, Dale Barlow - flute, alto and tenor sax, Roger Frampton - piano, Phil Treloar - drums