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Alex Machacek: Fat Beyond Belief

Ian Patterson By

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Alex Machacek is back with a tremendously exciting new record and a wonderful new trio. Well, not quite. Drummer Harold Pirker and bassist Raphael Preuschi have been playing with the Austria-born/California-based guitarist on and off for the guts of a decade and both contributed significantly to Machacek's [sic] (Abstract Logix, 2006). A trio recoding by FAT (Fabulous Austrian Trio) has been a while coming, but Machacek is already thinking about its next recording. Clearly, the chemistry between the three musicians is something that inspires Machacek to some of his finest playing yet, as just one listen to FAT reveals.

The music on FAT runs from soothing to bruising, and there are plenty of the guitarist's dazzling improvisations scattered throughout these sometimes dense, conceptually impressive compositions. Machacek is the first to admit that his writing can be dense, and so knotty and complex are some of the unison lines that the trio has not yet attempted a couple of the tracks live; thought it will, Machacek is certain. Several listens are recommended to peel away the layers, but it's time well spent, as the individual and collective playing is pretty extraordinary.

Machacek feels very comfortable with his musical partners on FAT, and is keen to give these two wonderful musicians the greater exposure that their talents deserve. And, judging by the cool hats that the trio dons on the CD cover and on stage, FAT may also be attempting to reintroduce the fashion for snazzy headgear to the jazz world.

All About Jazz Alex, FAT is a really tremendous recording. This trio is very exciting, where did you first meet Raphael Preuschi and Herbert Pirker?

Alex Machacek I met Rapha a long time ago in a funk band where he was the bassist while I was still living in Austria. Herbert I met more than ten years ago at a summer course where I was teaching and he was playing in my ensemble. I found a great drummer. I kept in touch with them while I was still living in Austria and at one point I asked them if they wanted to play with me. That ended up as a couple of tunes on [sic].

AAJ: What do you like about this trio?

AM: To me it's almost an effortless trio. I'll write the material and they learn it in no time. When I play with them I don't have to tell anyone what to do. It's effortless. They do what I would like to hear and I suppose that is pretty much a luxury.

AAJ: Preuschi and Pirker are in Austria and you've been based for some years in California; how often do you get to play together?

AM:I usually got to Austria every year to teach at a summer clinic. I've been doing that for the last six years and whenever I'm there we play. Two years ago I said 'come on, let's make a record.' We went into the studio for one day where we got the drum tracks down. There were some parts used from that session and then heavy overdubbing, file changing and everything. We usually play one or two gigs whenever I'm there.

AAJ The hats on the cover of FAT are very elegant; do you wear them in concert?

AM: Yeah, we do.

AAJ: Centuries ago, right up until the 1960s or thereabouts the whole world wore quite dapper hats and then they suddenly disappeared from the face of the planet; do you think they're making a comeback?

AM: Well, now they are reappearing. People are wearing hats again and it's nothing special.

AAJ: In California or in Austria?

AM: In both. On the streets people are wearing hats again. Why did we wear hats? I don't know. We just started for some inane reason and just thought we'd stick to it. Why not? So people can give me shit about wearing hats.

AAJ: Is there any chance that this trio will tour with its hats in the Unites States?

AM: There are plans for next year. There might be a tour in March. It's hopefully in the process of being booked. I would really like to bring the guys here. I think they're great and they should get a little more exposure. I really love playing with these two guys but they're just not known internationally. They're great musicians and it shouldn't matter if they are famous or not. The music speaks for itself.

AAJ: They clearly are phenomenal musicians. Pirker sounds as good as any drummer you've played with and you've played with a lot of great ones, like Terry Bozzio, Jeff Sipe and Marco Minnemann. Preuschi comes across as a beautifully lyrical, highly grooving bassist. This trio deserves to have a decent run.

AM: Yes. I really hope that the promoters will take a risk. Promoters have a tendency to want big names, which is a no-brainer, as then the place will fill. Let's see, maybe we'll be lucky.

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