Garaj Mahal, More Mr. Nice Guy [Owl Studios]
The term “world music” gets tossed around a lot, and the instrumental rock/jazz/funk/dance fusion on Garaj Mahal’s fourth album could qualify as such, with Indian, Middle Eastern and African influences all sharing space on the tapestry. But what elevates Garaj Mahal is the infusion of good old American funk into everything they do (the bass groove midway through “Frankly Frankie Ford” is the greasiest thing I’ve heard in a good long while), and it’s all anchored by bassist Kai Eckhardt. Eschewing the usual fusion bass tone, Kai reaches instead for the unapologetically hairy growl of his ’61 P-Bass, which he puts through technical paces not often heard on that instrument. Not that it holds him back any; the opener “Witch Doctor” (written by Eckhardt) and his solo in “Tachynomics” is filled with signature slapped and tapped Kaiisms up and down the neck. (He does use a Coura Buru-Buru fretless on the odd-time fingerstyle funk of “Chester The Pester,” featuring a showcase melodic solo). If you haven’t gotten into Eckhardt yet, this is the perfect disc to start with—a collection of adventurous tunes and bass performances that doesn’t just tickle your muzo bone, but grooves you into a trance as well.