Of John Coltrane and Kenny G... 

Garaj Mahal bass player Kai Eckhardt brings Whistler up to speed


Who: Garaj Mahal

Where: Boot Pub

When: Oct. 15 & 16

Tickets: $20

Enigmatic jam band Garaj Mahal is popping up in Whistler for a pair of shows next weekend – their first visit back since last New Year’s Eve.

With their expert individual musicianship and astounding, almost telepathic cohesiveness as an improvisational quartet, the band has a dedicated corps of local fans. Many will be wondering how many more gigs they will see in the intimate Boot Pub, which is slated for redevelopment.

On the eve of their current tour up the West Coast from California through the Pacific Northwest to Vancouver and ending here in Whistler, Pique entertainment writer Shelley Arnusch caught up with bass player Kai Eckhardt, who talked politics, all night recording sessions and playing to the point of hyperventilation.

Just another day in the Garaj...

PIQUE: Since you were here last New Year’s, I need to make sure the band is still together. No big fights or band-breaking dramas?

Kai Eckhardt: We’re going strong but we just took a six-week break. We all did side projects and other projects. I went to Europe and worked with a jazz trio. Fareed worked with the Fareed Haque Group, the band he had even before Garaj Mahal. Alan Hertz worked a lot with Bobby Vega, the bass player that used to play with Jefferson Starship. Eric Levy was working with his band Eric Levy’s Love Lounge. Everyone was off doing our own thing.

PIQUE : Is that the secret of your cohesiveness? That you take these breaks and do your own thing?

KE: It’s more of a necessity because we have different circumstances. Fareed and I both have children. We have a certain economic bottom line. Before we formed Garaj Mahal we all had our connections in Europe, teaching, studio gigs. We have to take time off to honour those connections or else they die. Garaj Mahal ends up being the only breadwinner and it’s comparable to a monoculture in agriculture. If you only have one type of tree in a forest and there is a parasite it will take everything down. But if there is diversity then you have stronger trees. Diversity makes life strong. One-sided-ness weakens.

It’s a philosophical point of view but what it boils down to is that we have to keep a balance between being together as a band and doing our own thing. Where that balance lies has to be negotiated from year to year. Garaj Mahal right now is still everyone’s priority because it’s growing and doing better and getting publicity all over the U.S. Next year it looks like we’re going to make the international leap over to Europe.

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