One of the best fusion bands around today, Garaj Mahal is rife with virtuoso players who care only about a loose, funky groove.
Here, the playing of guitarist Fareed Haque is just sick – whether he’s playing electric or one of his sitar-acoustics, he can lay back with a tasty melody, or drop in a deadly bop run that would make Miles or ’Trane grin ear to ear. Listen to “Witch Doctor” to hear his effortless amalgam of jazz, Middle Eastern, jamband funk, and even simple pop phrases. He can play slow or fast – it doesn’t matter when you have Haque’s command. Listen to “More Mr. Nice Guy,” with its edgy, jagged approach to improvisation that keeps the listener guessing what’s around the corner. And it doesn’t hurt when your rhythm section is composed of groove-machine drummer Sean Rickman and bassist Kai Eckhardt, who can play fusion-fast or laid back, as on the gorgeous “Alison’s Pony.”
The band’s ’70s funk/fusion vibe is all over “Faster Than the Speed of Time” and “Tachyonics” – their sound is part Pat Martino, part early Return to Forever with Bill Connors, and maybe a dash of Aquarium Rescue Unit. The band’s organic chemistry defies description, but suffice to say, if you like master musicians playing at the peak of their game, you won’t go wrong here. This is jazz to shout about.
This article originally appeared in VG’s Aug. ’10 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.