Garaj Mahal, More Mr. Nice Guy

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
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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.


David Pastorius & Local 518 Sense Of Urgency

Imagine if Michael Jordan’s nephew decided to be a basketball player. No pressure, right? Good thing, then, that bassist David Pastorius isn’t even trying to ape you-know-who. The delicious bass tone is a thick, meaty, both-pickupsfull- on, decidedly fretted jazz bass sound with a touch of edge on the high end. When he gets to slapping—and boy, does he ever on the blazing “Groundhog Day”—it’s as if Flea’s hand was landing on Marcus’s bass. His melodic tapping pays clear homage to Stu Hamm on the solo piece “Extra Ecclesam.” Meanwhile, his meat-and-potatoes fingerstyle grooving is superb throughout this widely varied collection of original rock/funk/jazz fusion compositions. As a composer and producer Pastorius is still growing into his ample talents, but ultimately it’s a treat to hear David groove, comp, and solo through these unapologetically sprawling tunes, regardless of his ancestry. That said, though the overall texture couldn’t be more different than, say, anything on Word Of

Miroslav Vitous Re-imagines A Different Weather Report

IN THE TITLE OF VIRTUOSO JAZZ bassist Miroslav Vitous’s latest album, Remembering Weather Report [ECM, 2009], the word “remembering” carries a lot of weight. He was right there with Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul at the beginning of what we now know to be the seminal fusion band of the ’70s, but his era [Weather Report and I Sing The Body Electric, Columbia, 1971] was a more experimental, streamof- consciousness project than the form-and-groove driven, Pastorius-powered version. It’s this earlier vision and spirit that Vitous honors on Remembering. This allacoustic recording is a largely free-form improvised look back to what was, with a hopeful look ahead to the future. As Vitous says, the goal is “awakening the spirit of the direct communication, as now is the time to go in that direction. The old concept is long past-due expired.”


Meshuggah, Alive

With a conceptual opening video sequence and a richly detailed color booklet that pay explicit homage to Ridley Scott’s classic space horror movie Alien, Meshuggah’s live CD DVD Alive is a beautiful, brutal masterpiece of a product. The extra goodies

CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE's Straightahead Masterwork

HE’S 37 YEARS OLD AND HAS WON A GRAMMY, BEEN COMPARED TO RAY BROWN on upright, toured with Chick Corea and John McLaughlin on electric, gotten first-call treatment from both hardcore jazzers (Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner) and pop stars (Sting), arranged for orchestras, directed the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, obtained artist residencies at the Detroit and Monterey Jazz Festivals, and even conducted his own radio show about jazz and—wait for it—sports. But for Philly native Christian McBride, being referred to as one of the masters still evokes incredulity. “Are you kidding? I’m still the young phenom,” he says, chortling. “I can feel it now. I’ll be 70, and all those old jazz writers are gonna be going, Young Christian McBride, in his brief career . . . .”