Clicking with the people 

WHO: Garaj Mahal

WHERE: GLC

WHEN: Saturday, March 31

Four musical forces, one big sound.

Garaj Mahal is being touted as the next big thing on the jam band scene. Each of its members - Kai Eckhardt (bass), Fareed Haque (guitars), Alan Hertz (drums) and Eric Levy (Hammond B3) - have well-established reputations outside of Garaj Mahal. Some even call them legendary. Others say the band's unique blend of funk, jazz, R&B and blues is on the way to becoming a legend unto itself.

"I like the word groove," says Haque.

It's the individual band members' love of groove that seems to be the glue holding together their diverse musical backgrounds.

"There's a lot of world music that is real groove oriented, even a lot of Indian music that a lot of Americans aren't aware of," he continues. "We come at the whole jam band thing very organically. It's not like we woke up one day and said 'let's be a jam band'."

Eckhardt agrees.

"We're all influenced by the emerging fusion bands in the '70s. There's also a rootsy, funk, R&B element in there. Eric used to work with The Commodores. Fareed worked with Da Funkt. I'm a veteran of the John McLaughlin Trio. So it's really lineage ties with this band."

The band's manager, Christian Wires, can be credited with having the foresight to bring Haque and Hertz together. The two jammed with various other artists for a few shows and invited Eckhardt to join them at a San Francisco gig.

"Alan used to play with KVHW," says Eckhardt. "They were famous amongst the same group of people that follow the Grateful Dead and now the String Cheese Incident. But KVHW was over and Allan was searching for a new group of people. Allan just called me up and said he was doing a show with Fareed and asked if I'd like to play. It was at a little club called the Connecticut Yankee. It fit about a hundred people or so. We ended up improvising the whole night. The crowd was very enthusiastic. There were people who came to dance. It was just a very nice atmosphere. It felt good. We decided to do it again. And then each time we played there were more people. And then somehow it turned into something that blew out of proportion," Eckhardt laughs. "And it had as much to do with the musicians as it had with the audience and the kind of support we were receiving."

"We were a no name band for quite a while," continues Haque. "So at one of our shows we asked for name submissions. We set up a Web page for name submissions, like a little contest. The next day we had 800 names!"

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