A Garaj sale of epic improvised proportions 


Who: Garaj Mahal

Where: Boot Pub

When: Sunday & Monday, May 25 & 26

While the Taj Mahal is considered one of the top man-made wonders of the world, so too are Garaj Mahal revered in the jazz and funk-fused jam band world. So if you’d like to travel to a place where sonic amalgamations cause foot pounding palpitations, then pack your party passport and an experimental appreciative open mind for a trip to the Boot Pub this Memorial Day long weekend.

If you’re anything like the thousands of fans who are already hooked you’ll not only book another funky flight back before you know it, but you’ll pick up all the smooth souvenirs that go with them. Their latest offering to the hungry hordes is a three volume live CD set giving the funked up fans the signature fix they’ve been craving – blending and bending elements of jazz, funk and soul with unique world music layers. There’s explosive beats from drummer Alan Hertz. There’s funky keyboard fingering from Eric Levy (who also wields a wind-sounding mouthpiece to great applause). There’s multi instrumental interludes from Fareed Haque, who not only wows the crowds with his sitar-like 12 string but also happens to be a Blue Note recording artist and a university professor in jazz and classical guitar. And there’s the hypnotic bass picking and plucking from Kai Eckhardt.

If you’ve never been to a jam band juke before, then this half Chicago and half San Francisco-based ensemble of respected musicians is about as good as it gets. Think powerful drums keeping the beat, flavourful guitars that’ll make your head spin. Keyboards that’ll bring a big smile to your face and velvet smooth bass lines that keep it eclectic.

We caught up with laid back drummer Alan Hertz for a bit of a chat this week about the new albums, the best gigs and why the band likes Canada so much.

Pique: Do you ever feel like you’re four bands in one because there is such distinctly different sounds emanating from each of you?

AH: I guess in terms of influences, Eric and I are both 29 and more dance oriented while the other two guys, Kai and Fareed, are a lot older and classically trained, but I like the blending of their world music with our more modern groove music. I feel it goes perfect together.

Pique: Why a three volume set for your latest release?

AH : We have so many good live recordings to choose from and they’re all so different so choosing just one wouldn’t represent us properly. The first volume has Zakir Hussein, the world renowned tabla player on it and was recorded at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. We don’t get Zakir every day so that was unusual. The second album was more jazzy and electronic and recorded at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, and the third is more funky and bluesy and recorded at the Boulevard Café in Chicago.

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