There's a spoken segment on one section of 24 Talesa kind of simulation of computerized dialogue: "Hey Marco, do you like drumming all day?," asks guitarist Alex Machacek: "Yes I do," replies Marco Minnemann, and it's not difficult to believe. Machacek's most daring musical statement yet is based around a daunting, 51-minute drum improvisation by Minnemann. Asides from saxophonist John Coltrane, perhaps, it is difficult to recall many musicians improvising solo for such an extended length of time. Minnemann's drumming is completely compelling, too, and provides a mirror of sorts for Machacek, whose response is equally imaginative and as challenging technically.
This is a recomposed piece with brief improvisational passages, although at times it is difficult to discern the line between blinding improvisation and complex compositional form based around Minnemann's hypnotic polyrhythms. This may all sound like a technical exercise, which of course it is to an extraordinary degree. The richly harmonic depth of the music, however, and the multi-layered rhythms and sheer variety of textures and moods conveyedcombined with a virtuoso display from Machacek, whether improvising or notmakes for a powerful listening experience.
The 51 minutes is divided into 24 miniature musical essays, ranging in length from thirty seconds to four-and-a-half minutes, although the intention is surely to experience the entire piece uninterrupted. Minnemann's approach leaves acres of space for Machacek to explore, and the range of voicings that emanate from his guitar is vast. On just the opener, "On Your Marks...," heavy metal riffing precedes intricately weaved six-string patterns as light as spring rainfall, which n turn give way to Machacek's lightning-fast yet incredibly lucid solo.
Machaceks' shifts in meter, vocabulary and power dance around Minnemann's progressions, and can happen just as easily in a piece lasting 60 seconds as in one of the longer segments. Machacek plays acoustic slide one minute and funk riffs the next; sustained notes that soar follow on the heels of breathlessly fast guitar breaks, which can be electric or, as on "Tranquillo," acoustic. Machacek handles all additional instruments with impressive computer-programmed piano on "Tour de France," while "Dancing with the Baby Bear" is driven by Mannemann's hi-hat and explosive snare rolls.
"Amika," one of 24 Tales' more extended sections, is a standout track. From its lyrical beginning, the piece soon forays into rockier territory, and features a wonderful solo from Machacek. Also impressive is "She Likes It," which covers a remarkable amount of musical territory in less than five minutes. However, there isn't a single minute anywhere on this CD which isn't arresting for the breadth of ideas and the dazzling execution. Trombonist Martin Ptak brings an extra dimension, particularly on the mostly slow-grooving "Eau de Conlon," another outstanding track.
It will be interesting to see whether 24 Tales signals the beginning of more composed output from Machacek, as opposed to small group work. This recording endlessly demonstrates that Machacek is able to merge breathtaking improvisation and serious composition in an altogether unique and spellbinding way.
Personnel: Marco Minneman: drums; Alex Machacek: guitars and everything else; Sumitra: vocals(2); Martin Ptak: trombone (12, 13, 15).