THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM IS that electric guitar and acoustic piano don’t blend well in a duo setting, but you might question that while listening to Now [AbstractLogix]—a wonderfully nuanced and sonically seductive jazz album with European classical and folk flourishes by Austrian guitarist Alex Machacek and English keyboardist Gary Husband. Both are more associated with fusion than the subtler forms of jazz, and, in addition to leading their own groups, Husband currently plays with John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension, and Machacek works with Eddie Jobson, John Wetton, and other prog-rock luminaries.
“I’ve never really liked acoustic piano with electric guitar, and my demos for this project favored acoustic guitar samples,” admits Husband. “In this case, however, Alex came with a particularly delicate electric delivery, and I was both surprised and delighted with the blend. The experience was one of dramatic discovery, because I hadn’t been exposed to that side of Alex previously, either compositionally or in terms of improvisation.”
“I really wanted to make a record without using distortion,” adds Machacek. “Not that I have anything against distortion, but I thought acoustic piano and distorted guitar would just sound weird, and using clean tones also let me play more chords, because not all chords translate well when distorted.”
To get those piano-friendly tones, Machacek split the signal from his Bill DeLap guitar three ways. One line fed an amp that was miked, one was routed to his computer (so that he could monitor through his favorite reverbs and delays), and the third went into a direct box.
“We recorded all three sources,” he says, “but, in the end, I just went with the direct signal, and used it to re-amp all my parts through my Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II.”
Although the duo entered the studio with written music, what you hear on Now is as much the product of their spontaneous interaction as what was on the charts.
“When composing, I considered things like making use of the full range of the piano,” says Machacek. “So, I would try to leave some space—like only playing the melody when Gary was playing in lower registers—but once we got going, I didn’t have to think about those things as much because the music just started working. For example, when Gary was comping, he played exactly the chord voicings I wanted to hear. It was telepathic.”
“Alex and I come from very different backgrounds, and yet we can still meet and merge in this wonderful, universal, unfathomable, and beautiful act of making music,” says Husband. “Of course, we do meet clearly on a few levels. We are both harmony junkies, neither of us are the product of any kind of ‘be-bop’ method, and we’re both a little rebellious—something that has always been important for me when making music. Necessary actually!”