Outstanding musicianship, even if as a gift from the gods, is no guarantee in itself of a successful musical collaboration. Intuition, empathy and a good ear are, however, essential. So it was clearly an auspicious weekend when guitarist Alex Machacek, bassist Matthew Garrison and drummer Jeff Sipe combined the aforementioned qualities in abundance at the behest of producer Souvik Dutta of Abstract Logix to create the wonderful music that is Improvision. Doutta must feel like the cat who got the cream.
The opening track, "There's a New Sheriff in Town, may be a statement of intent, but this is no one-man show; this is a trio recording and make no mistake. This is really the baddest ass-kicking posse in the west. Industrial riffing, blistering, imaginative drumming, frighteningly fluid yet lucid guitar and a probing bass color much of this song before it melts beautifully into the nothingness from which it came.
"Along Came a Spider is a quirky title and if an arachnid could play guitar it is doubtful that even with all its legs it could match the jaw-dropping technique and imagination of Machacek or Garrison, who both solo magnificently and ever-so musically. On this and indeed every track, Sipe neither follows nor leads, but instead rides abreast, never repeating a trick and urging ever-changing patterns and exclamations from his drum kit.
Improvision kicks up quite a few sparks but this is no chops fest, it is much deeper, much more subtle and all the more rewarding for it. Garrison's bass sparkles on the unforgettable "Shona, while Machacek sculpts some tremendous sounds. All three musicians employ great restraint, working in that high-tension zone between explorative jamming and full flight.
"Very Sad is somewhat of a misnomer, being in fact only rather melancholic. Machacek's guitar oozes emotion and Garrison's bass solo is a joy, proving the Joni Mitchell line that there is comfort in melancholy.
The trio shifts seamlessly and utterly convincingly between the gently balladic, as on "To Whom It May Concern and "Put Me Back to Sleep, and the back-to-the-future fusion of "Gem 1 and "Gem 2, which suggest the best of Jeff Beck's groups for energy and virtuosity.
The CD sleeve suggests filing Improvision under Jazz/Rock. Perhaps a more fertile idea, in keeping with the music, and in the hope that it reaches the widest possible audience would be to file it under Extraordinary. Souvik Dutta is not the only one licking his lips.
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