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Columns > Dan Alford - Audio Files

Published: 2002/08/24
by Dan Alford

Garaj Mahal

In the past year a trend has developed among concert goers, something that helps spread the music and develop the community, and it is a fine practice in which probably sixty percent of concert goers can partake. Back in February I was strolling about the packed confines of the Hammerstein Ballroom between sets at a Ratdog show when I caught sight of a little rubber banded package sitting on a chair. I picked it up and found that my assumption was correct; it was a pair of discs, the Deads 87 camping show in Maine. The set list was there, along with an email address and a note that said, "Take Me! Im Free! One Per Family!" I scooped it up and took it home. Unfortunately after giving it a listen, it turned out to poor quality at best, something I would never listen to, but the idea was great.
Distributing live music at shows is an excellent idea, a way to send your fellow revelers home with a little extra treat, something to sooth the soul or bend the mind. Since then Ive been handed a number of sets or full shows from a number of bands, including the Dead, Phish, String Cheese Incident, The Band, Soulive, Steve Kimock Band and Garaj Mahal. And of course, Ive taken to handing out plenty of shows myself. As blank CDs run about 30 cents a piece, I simply make extra copies of material Im already burning for trades and B & P offers and hang on to them until a show rolls around. This is just a fantastic practice, something that should be encouraged, especially if youre out there trying to support a smaller band, a band that may not have wide exposure in the trading community yet. My only gripe about the discs Ive received is that nearly half have been poor quality recordings, and with the bulk of excellent sounding shows out there, why not give a great show? To get someone excited about some new music and have it be unlistenable is cruel at worst, and poor form at best. So pull out your favorite disc, make a copy and bring it along to your next show, and help make someone smile.
As always keep in touch with comments or contributions, be they full reviews or some Quick Picks.
Also, keep an eye open for Audio Files B&P offers on the Tape Trade Board. This month a 67 Miles Davis set was offered. The next offer will be up soon after this months issue is published.
Quick Picks From the Disc Changer:
The Slip, 3-7-99, Disc 1- Yellow Medicine opener.
Percy Hill, 2-18-00, Disc 2- Jahmonatrix > Exodus.
GD, 10-27-79, Disc 2- Vacation music. Dancin > Franklins to open set II.
Coltrane, Live at Antibes- One of only two full performances of Love Supreme.
SKB, Live at Sunshine Daydream- A nice 1 disc sampler from 7-20-02 handed out by the Kimock camp on the recent four-date mini-tour. Excellent Its Up to You.
Discman: Sector 9, 3-29-02, Disc 3- Encores with Karsh Kale.
Garaj Mahal, Bajo > Poodle Factory from 2/17/02 Bar One
This coupling comes from the very end of the second set of very nice, at times groovy, at times spacey, show. Bajo starts up with light noodling from guitar hero Fareed Haque, notes from the resonating strings lingering in the air. He starts to pick up speed and ferocity, strumming and picking at great speed and bassist Kai Echardt drops in well-placed, pensive rumblings. Alan Hertz then begins to rattle over kit, but still its just Fareed playing off himself. At four and half minutes the rambling is over and a tight groove is established, taking what is best from the preceding moments and laying it down hard. Its a Pakistani funktion. The movement crests waves that following fast upon one another, Eric Levy now coloring the horizon with organ notes as the tunes takes off. But the music drops low again, Eric now dominating the background as his band mates spin and roll- a passage reminiscent of the opening minutes, but livelier. Alan tears out a short drum solo that is only a fuse to the powder keg that follows, a second barrage of the sub-continental groove that leaves the waves behind in order to skip across mountaintops. Fareed plays at incredible speed as the rest of the band lopes along with long steps, but at times falls into a nice loopy sway- incredible musicianship all around. The composition stretches endlessly with Levy mired somewhere in the middle of mix, the thin buzz that ties it all together, but as the song winds down, the keyboardist is left high and alone, and he directs the group toward a new groove. Fareed picks up on the idea, mimicking Levy at first, but then controlling the rhythm structure to a degree that the keyboardist is free to embellish the movement with organ leads.
Suddenly Hertz rolls across the kit again and Kai and Fareed begin the layered chanting of Poodle Factory. Smoking groove guitar and swollen bass rise up momentarily between lyric beds, setting the target for the long jam that follows. Levy rides the clavinet, harmonizing with Haque, to start the funk-down. The details shift and flow, but in general the first outing is all about a serious rhythmic groove. At open point Eric slides over the surface, at another Fareed, at another Kai, but all the while the musicians are meshing like finely engineered gears. Eventually Fareed moves back to the resonating sounds, while his band mates fight to hold themselves back. Their playing broils and boils like angry currents under the sheen of calm waters, and almost overtakes the guitar before the second verse ends the song. This is an excellent recording, an excellent performance, but if youre new to Garaj Mahal, check out whatever you can- they may just be your new favorite band.

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