Listen to Garaj Mahal's Mondo Garaj on JamBase Rhapsody!

Words & Images by: Sarah Moore

Garaj Mahal :: 03.28.06 :: Starr Hill Music Hall :: Charlottesville, VA

Kai Eckhardt :: 03.28
There are a number of elements that set Garaj Mahal apart from the myriad of funk-jam bands on the touring circuit. Most obvious is the virtuosic talent of the band's guitarist and bass player. Kai Eckhardt (bass) has worked with Stanley Clarke, John McLaughlin, and Larry Coryell, to name a few. Fareed Haque (guitars) has lent his talents to Sting, Joe Zawinul, Tony Williams and is a tenured professor at Northern Illinois University where he teaches a variety of music classes. Rounding out the band are the very talented Alan Hertz (drums), best known as the "H" in KVHW and Eric Levy (keys).

I arrived during their first song, "Never Give Up," while they created a multi-layered rock groove. Haque's guitar brought an Eastern presence to the Western rhythm foundation. They began almost as if warming up, feeling out the edges of the room and centering themselves after a long day on the road. Soon enough, the funk was trotting along with high-pitched guitar notes maneuvering in-and-out of the pulsing rhythm. At this point Garaj Mahal threw on the brakes creating a "pseudo-stop" where the lead dropped out but the funk kept flowing. Something about expecting the end of a song and hearing them jump back in full-throttle excited me. Eckhardt took a few steps foreword and began an intricate high-end solo. After his brief moment, the group faded into an almost-smooth jazz composite, with Hertz striking the rim of his drums. Their tendency to change moods, time signatures, and feels within jams truly elevate them in comparison to their contemporaries. They melded back into an upbeat, straightforward, and fuller groove, and Levy added some intergalactic sounds on the keys. These outer space musings quickly transformed into a gritty wah-wah progression. Yet again, they segued back into the original groove, with Haque lacing things together with a sitar-effect. His special 1962 Gibson lent itself to a variety of different sounds, exhibiting its versatility many times during the show.

Haque & Eckhardt :: 03.28
Next, they went into their second selection, "Frankie Ford." Hertz caused a rumbling that transitioned into another funky number. Eckhardt plucked his Fender, creating a mouth harp tone with a heavy dance vibe. The tight, quick groove involved some duet scat singing between Eckhardt and Haque. Seemingly in a chaotic state, the band churned out a hodgepodge of disorder, although the sound had clear direction. Haque switched his tone, giving the impression that the sound was traveling through a wooden tube. Fast Latin beats mixed with the avant melody. Then, they concocted a radio-tuning sound before heading back into their head groove. Before ending the song, Hertz played an energetic solo, whetting the audience's appetites for the furious drumming that loomed ahead. The band incorporated P-Funk's "We Want the Funk" into their set closer, "Poodle Factory," from their Mondo Garaj release. Haque applied a nasty slide, and the crowd could not contain themselves.

Hertz & Levy :: 03.28
Opening their second set, Hertz applied a precise, heavy drum outline while Levy manned the Fender Rhodes on "Be Dope" (another song from Mondo). Soon the four were all collectively improvising, with Haque's Freddie Green-esque chunky guitar blazing the path. Before long, he was shredding the instrument, throwing his whole body into it. The highlight of the evening was their re-vamped version of "We Are the Survivors," a tune recorded in New Orleans. They reworked the song after seeing the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. Beginning with a sound reminiscent of "Cross-Eyed and Painless," the tune quickly unfolded into a unique strain of funk. Eckhardt began by barely touching his bass and then progressively became louder and more adamant. The complex rhythm altered the natural dance rhythm, and soon I felt the flow. Hertz placed a tambourine on his drums for a fuller sound, and soon dove into a supreme solo. A neighborhood bucket jam came to mind, but he was just one person. Levy inserted a violin sound, and then he used an electric mouthpiece to breathe an extra layer into the jam. The device reminded me of a melodica, but instead of a tube, there was a wire.

The band mentioned Freddie Wah-Wah Watson before heading into their set closer, "Poujab." Layered funk permeated the room, involving a fluttering of the keyboards and more "pseudo-stops." Before ending, they went into a multitude of staccatissimo lines. That is, they hit their instrument very quickly and made a lengthy pause between notes. They closed by manhandling their respective instruments, and the crowd cheered them back for one more song. "Blueberry Cave," the title track from their latest album, was the selection of choice. Haque employed his guistar (guitar and sitar combined, somehow) and Eckhardt changed to his fretless Coura. Haque showed off at first by performing a Bach cello suite before delving into sheets of chords. A complex fingering frenzy separated this tune from the rest of the night. Eckhardt stood up for a last solo, employing low, rich tones. Suddenly, they ended abruptly after a fast burst, fortissimo. Before walking off stage, Eckhardt recited a short poem for all the hippies in the audience, bringing down the house.

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[Published on: 4/6/06]

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NickBoeka starstarstarstar Tue 4/11/2006 06:52AM
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Straight up, Fareed is the man. Got a chance to quick chat with him and watch him soundcheck and teach a new song to his keyboardist at Dulcinea's (Fareed Haque Group) this past weekend before the Keller/Grateful Grass show, and it's so incredible to hear him discuss music and technique and style. I've talked with him before, at the Aggie Theater, but this time he seemed a lot more approachable and excited to talk about music and theory, which I soaked up.
BtW - that tune that they were working on and ran through a couple of times for a decent pre-show crowd at Dulcinea's was pretty hot!

minutes Tue 4/11/2006 09:19AM
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ALan Hertz is possibly one of the greatest drummers ever. Unreal. Plus Fareed is rediculous. And Kai and Eric. Oh boy.

phishead818 starstarstarstarstar Tue 4/11/2006 10:47AM
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Love these guys! Excited to see them at 10klf!

deadphish001 starstarstarstarstar Tue 4/11/2006 11:35AM
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Way to go guys. Wish I had come out to see some of the Eastern shows. Lookin forward to your return to Cali and the west. Best live show in the scene... precision funk that will leave you wanting so much more. "Have you ever heard a poolde bark like this?"

jahrome17 Tue 4/11/2006 03:12PM
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this band should be about 100x bigger than it is now...they are quite possibly one of the best bands on the scene.

Sueshi starstarstarstarstar Tue 4/11/2006 06:27PM
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This superstar band should be huge, don't know whey they are not. Alan Hertz rocks my world, Kai is a fusion bass master, Fareed is a killer guitar player and Eric Levy on keys is no slouch either.

deadphish001 starstarstarstarstar Tue 4/11/2006 07:47PM
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Well, I could not agree more about this group not gaining the respect and popularity in the scene they deserve. Let's all take note of the good times, and good vibes that is Garaj Mahal.
We would love to see GM fly to new success in 2006. Check out Blueberry Cave, the new CD released last November. If you have ever experienced Garaj, you know the power and presence brought by master musicians having a blast, blasting the boundaries of improv music altogether.

deadphish001 starstarstarstarstar Tue 4/11/2006 07:48PM
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The Glick Wed 4/12/2006 09:20AM
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The Glick

Garaj's music and musicians are fantastic. why they aren't a major touring act is a great 'question with no answer'. the X-factor of the jamband/music world has too many variables to calculate. Best of luck to these guys, if you haven't seen them get on a plane, train or on your horse and GO!

meatless patty Wed 4/12/2006 11:49AM
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Joekiller starstarstarstar Wed 4/12/2006 12:01PM
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Another take on the show:

assafjaffe starstarstarstarstar Wed 4/12/2006 08:06PM
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I could be wrong but I think I understand why this fantastic band is not totally exploding. Last I heard Farred is highly reputable jazz teacher at a University in chicago. Correct me if I'm wrong. Alan and Kai live around me in the Bay Area, and I know Kai has young kids, and also teaches bass. They play amazing music. I appreciate them, if they want more I strongly feel they could get it, sometimes fame and fortune aren't priorities for some people.

RedHeaven starstarstarstarstar Fri 4/14/2006 12:46PM
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Agreed Garaj deserves all the lovin they can get. Its their originality that sets them apart for me....they shine bright at festivals small and large out west. (Bobolink Festival and High Sierra festival, both located approx. 20 minutes from one another, to remark on the most) Theyve been a hgue part of what makes these festivals so special, their impeccable energy and uniqueness. I can only hope great things!

chaz4130 starstarstarstarstar Fri 4/14/2006 03:29PM
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definitely one of the most impressive live acts i've EVER seen anywhere. Can't wait to see them at earth jam next weekend....and 10klf too!

lockley_333 starstarstarstarstar Mon 4/17/2006 11:32AM
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These guys blow me away everytime I see them. Fareed Haque is probably my favorite guitarist and he's the kind of guy that you can go right up to and have a conversation with. All of these guys are virtuosic musicians and none of them are big headed. They always BRING THE FUNK too!! They sound similar to a 70's Jazz/Fusion/Funk band but also fuse Eastern influences into their music which makes them really unique. Eric Leavy has a fantastic sound; he is always laying down great groove's with his rhodes/moog keyboards. Garaj Mahal has been my favorite band for a while and the more I here the more I want. The Fareed Haque group is also awesome live too.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Mon 4/17/2006 11:42AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

and...... if you like GM.. Check out Fareeds group too.
FHG. Its really good also, The latest album is Cosmic Hug, and its really good! And... Yes.. Fareed is a super nice guy, you can talk to him, he is a friendly fellow..
peace yall....