Garaj Mahal: Woot

By: Josh Potter

Ah, remember when funky, instrumental music wasn't simply lumped in with other bands that "jammed" and actually got the credit it deserved for all the crazy influences it drew upon? Garaj Mahal does. It's been no secret amongst Mahalics, either, that the San Francisco-Chicago quartet deals in some of the most perplexing arrangements and rubber-burning grooves of any band around. The band's first release since 2005's Blueberry Cave is proof positive.

Woot (released September 9 on Owl Records) receives a superb touch of retro-futuristic production and posits the album squarely in the late '70s. Just exactly where they land in that era is one of the album's charms. Rather than the Afro/coke-glasses Miles stuff, the band conjures neon-chrome Herbie Hancock and Martian metropolis Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Nowhere is it more evident than in Eric Levy's keys. Burbling Moog solos erupt out of the most unlikely places, like in the funk round-up "Hotel." Amid trombone soloing and scratching turntablism, Levy launches B and C sections with swelling synth. Guitarist Fareed Haque uses the tune "Pundit-Ji" in much the way John McLaughlin might. With sitar-ish 32nd notes, he springs a proggy mind-fuck of arpeggios. This multi-lingual bent extends into the Klezmer voyage "Ishmael and Isaac," where the highlight comes in the band's telepathic return from drummer Sean Rickman's solo late in the composition. As for bass virtuoso Kai Eckhardt, 1 minute 50 seconds of "Bass Solo" should be all any naysayer need hear.

While the band's penchant for funk ("Uptown Tippitina's") might suggest a devil-may-care mentality, this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, it's the band's conscious (dare I say, cosmic) sensibilities that round out its many dimensions. "Jamie's Jam" is a gorgeous celebration of hammered-dulcimer mystic Jamie Janover that begins with an oblique meditation and gives way to fleet melodic unison passages.

With technical mastery and compositional innovation, Woot isn't the kind of album a band creates so much as earns. No doubt, Garaj Mahal deserves this one.

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[Published on: 10/12/08]

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Comments

Jeff Kash star Mon 10/13/2008 06:54AM
Show -5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
chaseman starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/13/2008 07:00AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

First off, Garaj Mahal isn't "jam." I don't know why you think it is. Secondly, fuck an album title, let the music speak for itself.

Garaj Mahal is an outstanding group. I hope they come to Bonnaroo next year.

krizaster Mon 10/13/2008 07:50AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

This album is great. It definetly holds its own among the jazz fusion/ funk out there. As far as "jam" bands go, I'd rather see these guys over most of the other jam bands out there today.

Lobster starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/13/2008 09:06AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Lobster

slight correction: Alan Hertz is playing all the drums on this album. Sean Rickman has taken over on the drum stool in concert but Hertz mixed and helped produce this great album.

ClaysTribe starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/13/2008 09:53AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

ClaysTribe

wow, that first fella has no idea what these fellas are capable of. the mahal is a fantastic band full of groove and its not all about the jam all the time, jeez, get over it, go listen to new stuff so ytou can give your lawn boy cd a rest.

schofizzl Mon 10/13/2008 01:00PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

schofizzl

Glamour Profession? what kind of lame generic screen name is that? and they wonder why forums are dead... tisk tisk...

iwantstogetfunkedup Mon 10/13/2008 01:10PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Kai Eckhardt is the man on the bass. My mind has been blown by this band live many times and I highly recommend their live show. Bummed to hear that Alan Hertz is no longer drumming live for them. He has been way sick since the KVHW days and is/was a huge part of the band.

Jeff Kash Mon 10/13/2008 01:52PM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
PrinceofDANKNESS Mon 10/13/2008 09:45PM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I do ...... Sweet fucking Screen Name .... and what do you expect from a bunch of burnt out rave kids trying to like something with substance ..... jam died in august of 95

"605 outside the stadium....special delivery for hoops Mc Cann"

fucking right - good times

mkgee Tue 10/14/2008 02:16PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Glamour Profession is a fantastic name... regardless of what viewpoints come from it.

So what happened with Alan Hertz again? Last time I saw these guys Kai was replaced by this other (very good) bassist who just handle the rhythm. Soooo disappointing. Either way, still think these guys may be the most virtuous band out there

mkgee Tue 10/14/2008 02:17PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Correction: Could NOT handle the rhythm

schofizzl Tue 10/14/2008 11:58PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

schofizzl

hahaha

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Thu 10/16/2008 10:02AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

this music is rooted in Jazz. I am excited to hear this album.

is JAZZ jam? did anyone accuse Coltrane of being a jamband?

the songs could extend beyond 20 minutes in length. with alot of improvisation. is that jam? yes it is. jazz music is in some cases Jam music. I love this band. wonderful.