Tall Poppies


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On Fire

Bruce Cale Quartet
Live at the Sydney Musicians' Club, 1980

$23   (Australian dollars)


buy at: AMC - Buywell - iTunes

Tall Poppies Records is proud to release this fine recording of the Bruce Cale Quartet, consisting of Dale Barlow (flute and saxophones), Roger Frampton (piano), Bruce Cale (bass) and Phil Treloar (drums), each an exceptional creative musician. Recorded 24 years ago at the Sydney Musicians’s Club, these performances document a unique musical journey.

This recording is testimony to the kind of interpretive diversity Roger Frampton and Phil Treloar, in particular, were capable of creating. They were possibly the only musicians in Australia at the time exploring this level of free expression and who were capable of doing so within tightly structured contexts. They created a precedent, one which a number of the younger generation players are only now exploring.

Unfortunately there is very little record anywhere of this quartet’s music-making. Tall Poppies released another performance by this group from just a week earlier from the Adelaide Festival. This is an archival document that is sure to turn heads even a quarter of a century later!

For those lucky enough to have heard and seen this quartet live, and for those that come to it new, the unique level of communication that these four share in exploring Bruce Cale’s compositions will astound and delight.

Bruce Cale Bindo
Roger Frampton Offering
Bruce Cale Marin
Roger Frampton Tara
Bruce CaleL.A. Trajectory
Bruce CaleListen to the Song of Life
Bruce CaleBells, (Op.33, No. 2.)


Bassist and composer Bruce Cale has had a remarkable career. He started playing bass in his native Australia, went to England in the mid-Sixties and played with folks like Thbby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, then it was time for a bit of study at Berklee and an immersion in the busy Boston scene. Eventually he made his way to California to play with John Handy. After that ended, he moved to Los Angeles from 1969 to 1975, where he worked steadily in two different bands. Following another brief stay in San Francisco, Cale went back Down Under to stay and formed a series of groups. On Fire digs into an unspecified archive to rescue an excellent gig in Sydney dating from 1980. This particular group included saxophonist and flutist Dale Barlow, who later played with Cedar Walton and the 1990 edition of the jazz Messengers, the late pianist Roger Frampton, who's also heard on sax on a couple of tracks, and the sensitive drummer Phil Treloar, who's especially inspired on this night.

In his extensive notes on the music and the players, Cale cites the importance of composer and theoretician George Russell, saying that Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept has been "the single most important musical aid to my music, both in my playing and in my composition..." Most of the tunes are Cale originals, with Frampton contributing the pretty "Offering" and the attractively bouncy "Tara," a waltz that sounds influenced by Abdullah Ibrahim. As Eric Myers of the Sydney Morning Herald noted in a review of the concert reprinted in the booklet, the Cale group "has adopted modes of expression which make it unique in Australian jazz, although I suspect that it would not seem so avant-garde if it were playing in New York." He goes on to note the "brilliance" of the soloists and the "rapidity and fertility of musical ideas." All true, and the music still sounds fresh. From Cale's hard-boppish and exciting "Bindo" that opens the set to the lengthy closer featuring powerful soloing by Barlow on tenor and Frampton on alto, the quartet maintains a very high level of mutual support and imaginative music-making. Well worth hearing.
© Stuart Kremsky
Cadence Jan-Mar 2010

This disc, a companion live recording to the earlier released Bruce Cale Quartet Live: Adelaide Festival 1980, features this important band at the height of its powers.

Unquestionably, the star here is Dale Barlow, who solos on each of the seven numbers and has a distinct voice on both soprano and tenor saxophone. Most likely, you’ve never heard of Dale Barlow unless you live Down Under or have access to obscure Aussie labels like Tall Poppies or Spiral Scratch. A former member of Art Blakey’s great Jazz Messengers (with whom he appeared on two recordings), which during its long existence featured such standout saxophonists as Benny Golson, Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis, and Bobby Watson, Barlow has also recorded with Cedar Walton and has several discs out as leader. It might seem like a stretch to include him among such luminaries as the above mentioned players, but careful listening to him on this fine disc confirms that judgment. Equally at home on tenor and soprano saxophone (he also plays flute on one number) Barlow comes out of the Coltrane school, but with his own distinct approach. Seamus Blake and Billy Pierce might be comparable modern analogs. The other players also excel, with pianist/wind player Roger Frampton shining brightest. His frontline horn duets on “L.A. Trajectory” and “Bells” are a highpoint, and his piano stylings always provide apposite musical expressions. 

Leader and bassist Bruce stands out more for the compositions (five of the seven are his) than for his playing, which is perfectly serviceable but not particularly distinctive. One problem may be that his bass is under-mic’d and tends to get lost in the mix; he does take several interesting solos in a Miroslav Vitous vein that show off his virtuosity.

The disc, clocking in at over an hour and fifteen minutes, is probably too long. Several numbers meander or feature perhaps too much blowing for blowing’s sake, especially “L.A. Trajectory” and “Bells,” which together represent more than 50% of the total time of the seven-track disc. That said, On Fire is a wonderful introduction to Australian jazz generally and to the specific playing of Dale Barlow and compatriots.
Jan P. Dennis
14 August 2009
Audiophile Audition

Bassist-composer Bruce Cale has dropped from view in recent years, but back in the 1980s, he was one of the major figures on the Australian scene. A one-time sideman with Bryce Rohde, he studied George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organisation in great depth. He spent a decade or so in the UK and USA (working with such names as Tubby Haves, John Handy, Jack Walrath and Ernie Watts), before returning home in 1977. He made several important recordings that were released at the time. But arguably the best have been a pair of recordings that have only recently been released by Tall Poppies: Bruce Cale Quartet Live (from the Adelaide Festival in 1980), which came out a year or so back, and now On Fire.

Recorded in Sydney in 1980, it features the same quartet heard on the Adelaide album: Dale Barlow (tenor and soprano saxophones, flute), Roger Frampton (piano, sopranino and alto saxophones), Cale (bass) and Phil Treloar (drums). The music they play (five pieces by Cale, two by Frampton) is melodically and rhythmically attractive. Most importantly, it sets up the musicians to show what they can do, singly and collectively, as improvisers. They really stretch out, with some pieces running to 15 minutes ('L.A. Trajectory') or even 23 minutes ('Bells, Opus 33, no. 3'). There is no better example on record of what a daring, inventive and articulate pianist the late Frampton was. Barlow was 21 at the time, and played with the fiery confidence of a young man, allied with musical instincts of a more seasoned artist. Cale and Treloar work superbly behind them, both binding the group together and (especially in Treloar's case) constantly cajoling or challenging the soloists. Why release music thirty years after the fact? In this case, the answer is because it sounds fresh and compelling right now.
Adrian Jackson
February 2009 www.rhythms.com.au

Double bassist Bruce Cale has an impressive résumé. Originally from Sydney, he spent eleven years in the United States in the 1960s and 70s, during which time he performed with such jazz luminaries as Zoot Sims, Shelley Mann and Phil Woods. Returning to Australia in 1977, he formed large and small ensembles which included top local players including Col Loughnan, Bob Bertles, Paul McNamara and Alan Turnbull. Always a prolific composer, his written pieces extend beyond the jazz idiom to orchestral and chamber works.

This album of previously unreleased recordings is the document of a live concert from way back in 1980. The quartet features the great Roger Frampton on piano, extraordinary percussionist Phil Treloar, and a newcomer to the scene, 20 year-old saxophonist Dale Barlow. Much has changed since then. Frampton passed away in 2000, Treloar has been living in Japan since 1992, and Barlow went on to perform internationally with the likes of Art Blakey, Cedar Walton and Billy Cobham, and is now considered an elder statesman of the Australian jazz scene.

On Fire is comprised solely of original compositions: two by Frampton and five by Cale. The album's title is an appropriate description for the opening track, Cale's "Bindo", which burns from the opening bars. Treloar make this performance come alive with his lightning cymbal work and unpredictable tom-tom accents. Excellent solos are heard from Frampton, Barlow and Cale, but Treloar is definitely the star of the track. His solo can be considered a summary of the jazz drumming tradition.

Interestingly, Dale Barlow, an acknowledged master of the tenor sax, is heard playing tenor on only two of the album's seven tracks. On one track he plays flute, and the other four feature his rarely heard soprano sax. An excellent example is his use of the smaller horn on Frampton's delightful "Offering". The composition alternates between 4/4 and 3/4 and has a beautiful lyrical melody and a rich harmonic palette. Both Barlow and Frampton deliver breathtaking solos, and the relaxed tempo provides the opportunity for Cale's gorgeous tone to ring through. Incidentally, Frampton is also a multi-instrumentalist, at times augmenting his piano playing with both the alto and the diminutive sopranino saxophone.

Almost a third of the album's duration is given to the 23-minute performance of Cale's “Bells, Op. 33, No. 3." The piece opens in a pointillistic fashion. The cymbal hits and soft piano clusters creating a fragile texture over which Barlow adds delicate flourishes. Before long. Frampton adds a sense of time with repeated chords, but just as you think you have a hold on the tempo, it changes. Treloar applies mallets in a huge cymbal swell which ushers in Cale's rhythmic ostinato. Barlow builds a solo with an architectural shape like the Sydney Harbour Bridge, until Frampton abandons the piano and picks up an alto sax. Cale drops out and, after a few parting salvos, Treloar also stops playing, leaving the two saxophones to improvise a duet that is as full of beauty as it's full of surprises. When the rhythm section re-enters at a loping medium tempo, Frampton takes the spotlight with a blues-inflected solo, after which Treloar gives another master class in percussive invention. "Bells" is a true work of the improviser's art.

It you like pleasant, toe-tapping, danceable rifts this music is not for you. If, on the other hand, you enjoy being taken a journey of imagination and discovery, then On Fire may be just the ticket you need. These recordings have been unheard for almost 30 years. Australian jazz tans should
rejoice that they are finally being released.
© Aaron Searle
Music Forum May-July 2009

Historically, the 1980 NSW Jazz Action Society concert documented a young and extraordinary talented Dale Barlow with the uncanny ability to own these gorgeous melodies on tenor, soprano and flute. The late multi-instrumentalist Roger Frampton reveals, if there was ever any doubt, his genius as both a contemporary melody maker and an inventor with unlimited resource. His unaccompanied duet on alto saxophone with Barlow's tenor on the Cale piece ‘Bells’ in an overwhelming highlight, while Phil Treloar’s percussion and in particular his brightly rendered cymbal work adds both rhythmic drive and balanced beauty. Like Dave Holland, Cale becomes an anchor but also a bridge for the others to cross-pollinate. The post ‘Jazz Co-op' empathy between Frampton and Treloar was probably most precious during this period. The only flaw is the bass pick-up device which is a dead giveaway for 1980’s technology in contrast to today’s woody resonance. (PW)
Limelight May 2009

The Bruce Cale Quartet was one of the jazz sensations on the Australian scene in the early 1980s and Tall Poppies has released an album, On Fire, of one of their live concerts which shows you what all the fuss was about.

In short, it's stunning and is the best possible memorial to the huge talent of the late Roger Frampton. The line-up - Cale on bass, Frampton on piano doubling alto sax memorably on some tracks, Dale Barlow on tenor and flute and drummer Phil Treloar - was together for all-too-short a time in 1980 and, apart from this superb concert at Sydney Musicians' Club in August, there is only one set of them recorded a week or so earlier at the Adelaide Festival. (see TP175)

Fortunately all eight tracks on the Sydney concert are excellently recorded and have transferred cleanly to digital. The final track, Cale's composition Bells, is a stunner and for me the highlight of the set. Listen out for Frampton's edgy, wickedly funny duetting on alto sax with Barlow's tenor, and all this after some magical work on piano beforehand. Other picks are Bindo and LA Trajectory, both Cale songs, and Tara, Frampton's melodic tribute to his third wife.
Steve Moffatt
Penrith Press March 2009

The title says it all -such was the Bruce Cale Quartet's form on this night in 1980, four months after the concert previously released as Live. Here was a band in perfect equilibrium: Cale's maturity balanced saxophonist Dale Barlow's youthful zeal and the rampant adventuring of pianist-saxophonist Roger Frampton and drummer Phil Treloar balanced Cafe's intricate compositions.

There was nowhere to hide when Treloar was in this mood and you can sense all four members digging deep to sustain the intensity, even when the surf ace of the music drops to the pastoralism of Listen To The Song Of Life. LA Trajectory encourages a fiercer interaction and you know what it feels like to be a tree flattened by a blasting wind, as the sound of the twin saxophones comes scorching across the insistent bass and tumbling drumming.

This album is a superb document of Frampton's quirky brilliance and contains some of Treloar's finest recorded work, as well as catching Barlow at his feistiest and Cale at his
most commanding.
John Shand
Sydney Morning Herald 21.2.09

It’s 29 years since this concert was recorded by the NSW Jazz Action Society at the Sydney Musicians Club. A long time emerging from the archives, it's an important, historic album and the record company has overcome technical problems to reproduce a live recording of acceptable quality. The compositions are by bassist and leader Bruce Cale and the genius Roger Frampton on piano, and the musical concepts are as fresh as this morning's croissants. Dale Barlow, a virtuosic 19-year-old, is on saxophones and flute, with legendary drummer Phil Treloar adding immense excitement, rhythmic integration and percussive embroidery. Bindo, at an off-the-metronome tempo, has Barlow's tenor in full flight, Frampton's piano speeding melodically and Treloar's cymbal sticks working at wrist shattering pace. Frampton's beautiful ballad Offering has Barlow on soprano while the composer's piano explores a lyrical landscape, loaded with serendipity. This concert, well ahead of its time, has become more accessible in the
intervening years.
John McBeath
The Australian 24 January 2009

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 TP (1-900)



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