On the track Indian Girl, jazz guitarist Alex Machacek shows off his producing chops. Released in 2004, the song deftly combines pop with jazz as the vocalist sings against racism. The tune is indicative of a couple of things about the Austrian. Firstly, the track shows off his Indian connection — it has been sung by his wife Sumitra. Of Indian-origin, she has lived in Vienna most of her life. Secondly, it is an insight into the range of styles that Machacek works with. His fingers glide along the guitar when he is playing progressive-jazz rock fusion as part of the famous jazz band BPM. Even when he is part of straight up jazz trios, the riffs are played with equal panache.
The guitarist will be in India on his third official trip for a show at St Andrews Auditorium on October 31. He will consequently head to Bangalore for two more gigs. “I have always had a warm experience in India. A few years ago, I squeezed in a meeting with the in-laws during a tour. But this time around, I will have enough time only for the gigs,” says the guitarist who has heard Indian classical music but admits to not having explored it much.
Growing up in Vienna, a city steeped in western classical music, words such as crescendos and arpeggios were a part of Machacek’s vocabulary from a young age. As part of music school, the 42-year-old picked up the classical guitar when he was eight. Jazz came six years later. “When you start off as musicians, you try to emulate what you heard in your early years. But just like a child who is learning a new language, you have to build on your vocabulary,” says Machacek.
This, the guitarist achieved by playing as part of various ensembles. He has played with drumming legend Terry Bozzio of Frank Zappa fame as part of BPM. His current collaboration, however, is the most significant one — Planet X, a band started by Dream Theatre keyboardist Derek Sherinian and virtuoso jazz drummer Virgil Donati.
The gigs in India, however, will not showcase Machacek’s works with these acts. The musician has built a large repertoire of solo works, and has worked with various trios. While these are not as widely known in the popular circuit, Machacek has a loyal fan base and none can deny his imagination with the guitar. On the 2010 record, 24 Tales, he recomposed a 51-minute drum solo by Marco Minnemann. Then there is Improvisation, where he jammed with bassist Matthew Garrison and drummer Jeff Snipe for a whole day. He then composed music by going through the recording and picking up interestingly composed lines.
He says, “There are some albums I make that are heavily concept-driven and focus on the compositional angle. These I can’t play live. In this day, I am fully aware of what it costs and means to cut an album. I don’t make albums to become rich. I do it because I need to make music from my point of view.”