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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2002/12/27
by Dan Greenhaus

Garaj Mahal/ Lettuce, Mercury Lounge, NYV- 12/20

When I got word that Garaj Mahal and Lettuce would be playing
back-to-back shows at The Mercury Lounge in downtown Manhattan, I have to
admit I was pretty excited. I've had the pleasure of seeing Garaj
Mahal on several occasions, most notably their set at this year's Berkfest
which absolutely floored me. Lettuce, on the other hand, I've never seen
live, but I was more than willing to catch one of their sets and I had high

Garaj took the stage at 10:00 on the dot to a fairly packed room, but not
so crowded that you couldn't dance, as would happen later in the
night. Over the course of their hour long set, they covered all styles of
music with ferocity and facility. The simplicity with which drummer
Alan Hertz moves from beat to beat mirrors the
apparent ease Kai Eckhardt displays as his fingers move effortlessly around
the neck of his bass, hiding the fact that he is as talented a bass player
as anyone will see these days. Much has been said about
Fareed Haque's guitar playing. On this night, picking up Eric Krasno's
guitar (as he broke one of his own strings) he evoked the sound of John
Scofield on numerous occasions. And Eric Levy's keyboard
work, a notable part of the previous nights Ropeadope "New Music Seminar",
shined throughout the set. They closed their set with the Garaj Mahal
staple "Poodle Factory", which was far and away the highlight. "Poodle Factory" has several different sections, one of which, a vocal one, has the front three members repeating the name
of the song in a chorus of sorts in such effortless speed, one can't help but
be impressed.

Lettuce took the stage to a significantly more packed
Mercury Lounge. 10:00 on a friday night is still early for many people in
New York City, so by the time 12:00 or so had rolled around, many of the
late-starters had pulled in to catch Eric Krasno's "other band". However, Lettuce is a powerhouse unto itself, forging tight, tight
jazzy-funk rhythms with boundary-breaking jamming.
However, don't be fooled by Eric's placement in the band. He is not the
centerpiece. That is not to say he is not an important part of the band,
but rather he's just part of the whole. No one member plays a part
bigger than the other. They aren't concerned with meaningless solos, or
improvisational masturbation, as I like to call it. Yes, there is serious jamming, but it serves a purpose, to push the jam ahead and beyond. Of course, when Karl Denson took the stage half way through the set, the band took a step
back and encouraged Karl to step to the fore and the crowd, yours truly included,
ate it up wholeheartedly. Karl is up there with Warren
Haynes as the "rock-stars" of the jamband set, and his appearance anywhere
garners ravings from all in attendance. It was an absolute pleasure to be
in the front row as Sam Kinninger, horn player for Lettuce went back and
forth with Karl for almost forty-five minutes of intense musical
collaboration and improvisation. It made an already incredible night that
much better.

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