This formidable power trio of Austrian guitarist Alex Machacek, 5-string electric bassist Matthew Garrison and drummer Jeff Sipe is impossibly intense, dripping with staggering virtuosity and fertile ideas and seething with the kind of raucous improvisational abandon that we haven't seen since the heyday of Tribal Tech. For fans of acknowledged guitar monsters like Allan Holdsworth, Scott Henderson and the late, great Shawn Lane, the opening track of their new album says it all: "There's A New Sheriff In Town."
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Machacek's mind-boggling technique- blazing speed, uncannily fluid lines and daring intervallic leaps- is an obvious place to begin in singing the praises of this exciting new triumverate. But beyond the abundance of soloistic fireworks on Improvision provided by both Alex and Matthew, one of the most gifted and creative bassists on the post-Jaco scene, there is also a remarkable depth to the writing here, which comes across on harmonically sophisticated pieces like the atmospheric ballad "Very Sad," the compelling "Shona," the gentle, darkly alluring "To Whom It May Concern" and the gorgeous "Put Me Back To Sleep." Elsewhere, they exercise zen-like restraint on the freewheeling jam "Yoga For Cats, Part 1 and 2," then go for the burn on the aggressively slamming, chops-laden fusion showcase, "Gem1 and Gem2." And the astounding "Matt's Riff," is a brilliant showcase for Garrison's 21st century approach to the electric bass guitar. This stuff takes me back to the early '70s, to a time when creativity, concept and risk-taking were the watchwords in fusion music.
Bill Milkowski is a regular contributor to Jazz Times, Jazziz, Bass Player, Modern Drummer and Absolute Sound magazines. He is also the author of "JACO: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius" (Backbeat Books).
I had been thinking of bringing together three of my favorite musicians to record an album. On the weekend of April 7, 2007, the planets aligned just so and a wonderful power trio was born.
I had the good fortune to work with Austrian born guitarist Alex Machacek on his last recording [SIC]. For this project, I wanted to hear him in a freer, less rigid environment.
Alex is one of the most impressive guitarists I have ever heard. He has a unique melodic intuition communicated through a phenomenal technique.
Jeff Sipe, aka Apt Q258, has been a very close friend for years. Most of you may know him as the drummer for The Aquarium Rescue Unit, Shawn Lane- Jonas Hellborg or for Project Z. To me, Jeff has been unfairly overlooked by the mainstream music media. Jeff is a drummer of unique pedigree. He is a musician first and his fine sensibilities will lift any band his in to new heights.
Matthew Garrison is an immensely gifted bassist. I had seen him with John McLaughlin over ten years ago and have been a fan of his technical and compositional abilities ever since. I always wanted him to record with Alex and Jeff but their schedules made it impossible in the past. He brought a sense of professionalism, positive energy and confidence to the sessions that elevated the music to another spectrum.
I believe that making great music is above mere technical display or pyrotechnics. It is about musicians listening to each other intently. Alex, Matt and Jeff listened to each other allowing them to create the amazing music you will hear on this CD.
The planets were indeed perfectly aligned on that magical weekend.- Souvik Dutta
There is an advantage presenting a specialist radio show: I get the occasional promo a little time ahead of the UK release date. However, I will admit that I have been waiting this particular album with quite some anticipation after sampling and savouring a track at its record label's website. Now the full 'Improvision' has arrived, and I can report that I am NOT disappointed and go much further, saying it is probably the best jazz rock fusion album I've heard in quite a few years.
I've followed Austrian Alex Machacek's career for a number of years, since being introduced to his first album (under the group name but of different spelling, McHacek) 'Featuring Ourselves", itself a tour de force as an introduction to a major new guitarist. On that album Alex made it clear wrt his musical influences: Parker (including an individual and prize-winning take on "Donna Lee"), Zappa (more "Black Page" than "Yellow Snow") and Holdsworth - indeed a few critics (including myself), suggested that the album often sounded like the Mothers fronted by Allan Holdsworth.
The word spread slowly about the new kid on the (European) block but Alex's interest in polyrhythms meant former Mother, Terry Bozzio soon was working with him. BPM's 'Delete & Roll' resulted, an album of complex time signatures and dense, avant jazz fusion- including a studied avoidance of the Holdsworthian style of guitar playing - featuring the unusual combination of drums, guitar and woodwind. Alex decamped to the American west coast about two years ago, finding gigs almost instantly, and better still the fledgling label Abstractlogix signed him up. '[sic]' appeared earlier this year, in part continuing where 'Delete and Roll' stopped. And now the happy surprise especially within the year, with 'Improvision' being released.
This album is not quite like what has gone before. While on the CD cover, Alex's name heads the list of three: Matthew Garrison (the very gifted bassist who has worked with John McLaughlin, Gary Husband's Force Majeure), and Jeff Sipe (aka Apt. Q-258, and formerly worked with Hellborg & Lane, Project Z and others of Jimmy Herring groups), have equally important parts to play on this album. Their music is modern jazz rock fusion showing this music continues to progress, and nothing is stuck in 70's, so-called heyday of the genre. Their playing is virtuosic most of the album, and they have some pretty good compositions to arrange and improvise around- where too often elsewhere, superb playing has been affected by forgettable tunes. Alex Machacek's playing, whilst acknowledging the masters gone before importantly, as demonstrated on all his albums, you will find he is his own guitarist introducing us to playing and combinations of sounds not heard previously. He has frightening speed whilst playing the most fluid on lines. Matthew Garrison with his 5 string electric bass continues to show he in the major league of post-Jaco bassmen. And Jeff Sipe? This drummer seems to be a best kept secret amongst jazz rock fans, and here is the equal to the other two musicians. He plays subtle, he plays polyrhythms and he plays heavy. On 'Improvision' Machacek, Garrison and Sipe simply gel perfectly well together, playing a variety of tunes, revealing their harmonically sophistication, the ability to be restrained on jams - where other would have go headlong - to summarise; play things that are likely to take you by surprise, and some if you blink, you'll miss.
US critic, Bill Milkowski, writes: "This stuff takes me back to the early 70's, to a time when creativity, concept and risk-taking were the watchwords in fusion music". Yes, true up to a point, but most certainly this is music of the 21st century.
Richard Heath.( Jazzwise, Amazon UK)