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Garaj Mahal - w00t


Garaj Mahal

Owl Records OWL00125

Street Date: September 9, 2008

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Well, Fareed Haque's manning the guitar, so count me in. Garaj Mahal, though, is a democracy; thus, no one roothogs the spotlight, a very fortunate thing in light of Eric Levy's refreshing keyboards, a combo of Robin Lumley, Jasper van't Hof, and early Jan Hammer. The esteemed Kai Eckhart wields his famed bass somewhat a la a caffeinated Mark Egan (whatever happened to that guy?), bouncily peripatetic beside the non-stop garrulousness of Alan Hertz's drums, and, geez, can this cat dance on the skins! The nearest comparison would be Tony Williams by way of a post-Mahavishnu Cobham. Put all that together, and you have an ultra-cool re-evocation of the nexal point fusion, jazz, and prog briefly trotted out in the mid-to-late 70s—not the fury of Tempest nor the computer calculations of the Canterbury scene, but the uber-metropolitan melting pot Gabor Szabo, Deodato, Freddie Hubbard, the Crusaders, and various hipsters poured forth. Except for the short "Bass Solo", all cuts range from 6 to 10 minutes, allowing plenty of time to stretch and meld.

In the liner notes, Hertz mentions Scott Henderson, and Tribal Tech's a close relative, as is Vital Information, Brand X, and the old Graf / Hovensjo / Eberson / Christensen combo. Every cut is perky and convoluted but never smothering, as some chops-dominated fests can be—or sterile, as Group 87 tended towards. On Pundit-Ji, Haque whirls in the new Moog Guitar, so one can easily envision where, though it doesn't really occur here, those glorious old Hammer-Bolin duels will soon erupt in other hands. Levy's never chary about his 'boards, either, using piano and various synths for a multitude of colorations, waltzing through some righteous old atonal Corea-esque lines in Corner Peace, an angel on amphetamines. Haque likewise changes up from Martino riffs to heavysiding, Carnatic infusions, and lazy, balmy, elastic peregrinations. As I've said in other reviews in this forum, I love this kind of café-icy outside-nutso-CTI coolburn sound, and this time of the year - summer, no?—it's perfectly appropos. w00t, their third release and evidence of the enthusiasm Garaj Mahal is generating, will heat you up as much as cool you down, so what's not to like?

Track List:

  • Semos (Kai Eckhardt)
  • Hotel (Alan Hertz)
  • Pundit-Ji (Fareed Haque)
  • Bass Solo (Kai Eckhardt)
  • 7 Cows Jumping Over the Moon (Kai Eckhardt)
  • Corner Peace (Alan Hertz)
  • Ishmael and Isaac (Eric Levy)
  • Uptown Tippitinas (Eric Levy)
  • Jamie's Jam (Fareed Haque)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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