Back in the late ‘70s, jazz-fusion and jazz-rock advocates would have greatly anticipated a recorded collaboration between Allan Holdsworth (gtr), Jaco Pastorius (b) and Bill Cobham (d), for example. Natch’ summits of this ilk did occur and in some instances, failed to communicate any noticeable synergy, partly due to bloated egos or poor writing as the list goes on... Fast forward to the new millennium, and we are presented with one of those encounters by three artists who have rather unassumingly motivated a new generation of aspiring instrumentalists. While Austrian guitarist Alex Machacek is a relative newcomer, he’s already caught the attention of musicians and forward-thinking music enthusiasts via his work with drumming-god Terry Bozzio and others. As drummer Jeff Sipe and bassist Matthew Garrison’s resumes translate into a vivid portraiture of the new school of progressive applications and concepts. Nonetheless, this is a democratic yet irrefutably coherent endeavor where the trio concept is enhanced to the point where the artists perform on a level playing field by affording themselves ample room for development and expansion.
After hearing Machacek’s fiercely constructed legato lines, teeming with crunching chord voicings and machine-gun like velocity during the opener "There’s A New Sheriff In Town," you know he means business. And with Sipe’s pulsating rock beats and Garrison’s limber underpinning, you know these folks are going to wrestle up the bad guys and provide a semblance of order. In other spots, Machacek and Garrison execute an abundance of mind-boggling unison lines amid Sipe’s polyrhythmic forays, although a large component of this project’s success is firmly-rooted within the strong compositional frameworks.
The guitarist uses his synth-guitar for textural additives amid sounds that cast a polytonal stereo effect. Moreover, the musicians’ sense of bravura is conveyed and executed without appearing to be smug or indifferent. Nor is the music a redundant exposition of technical gymnastics. On the contrary, it’s a harmonious engagement that covers quite a bit of ground.
Machacek’s rolling and intertwining single note runs are toned down on the delicately rendered dreamscape titled "Shone," where Garrison’s effortlessly enacted and enticingly melodic bass solo acts as a prelude to an ominous alteration of events. But his cunning and tuneful solo on "Very Sad," consisting of impossibly fast single note runs, is apt to send tingles down your spine. It’s one of the more wondrously constructed moments of modern bass playing I’ve heard in quite sometime. More importantly, the band abides by a semi-structured improvisational element without getting mired in loose ends and aimless soloing escapades. No dount, they enliven the stellar attributes of jazz-fusion. With numerous listens under my belt, imagery of three heroic warriors riding off into the sunset came to mind. Mission accomplished, indeed.