Garaj Mahal, Twin Cats
The Jazz Kitchen
Friday, June 1-Saturday, June 2
Garaj Mahal cannot be accurately quantized by language, but tradition encourages soundbite stylistic monikers, so, here goes: electric jazz/funk fusion with a serious world bent. The tunes displayed a melodic, unison-driven sensibility and an affinity for odd-meter feels with well-defined parts that had a tendency to explode into excited conversations. The first night was simply not enough; many others and I returned Saturday with cash in hand without hesitation.
The players were absolutely virtuosic: the guitar-and-keyboard game of tag (perpetrated by the former professor/student pair of Fareed Haque and Eric Levy) lasted throughout the two evenings and displayed a fiery psychic connection between the two players. Kai Eckhardt and Alan Hertz, bass and drums, anticipated every feint and juke between Haque and Levy, prodding and answering accordingly.
Highlights included a Trilok Gurtu/John McLaughlin-inspired volley of tabla vocalizations (Eckhardt played with the aforementioned duo in the ’80s), a raucous cover of Pee-Wee Ellis’ “The Chicken,” which featured a blazing tenor solo by guest Rob Dixon and “Ivory Tower,” an unreleased cut wherein Eckhardt beatboxed a groove, handed it over to Alan Hertz on the kit, began rapping about the corruptive potential of power and capped it off with a ridiculously nasty unison-oriented B-section that forced my jaw down and my right eyebrow up.
Garaj Mahal were also hilarious and laid back, with Hertz injecting much ever-popular anti-Bush/Cheney humor, eliciting rounds of warm response that will probably get us all prosecuted under the Patriot Act.
Eckhardt, without missing a beat, freestyled a rhyme about Bush stealing pensions; it was equal parts hilarious, awe-inspiring and scary.
Garaj Mahal forged an ecstatic audience through their sheer groove power. Hanging with the band after the show found them to be approachable, kind and thankful. Their most recent album, “Blueberry Cave” (Harmonized Records), won the Best Album, Jam Category at the Independent Music Awards this year and is not to be missed.