Situated at the intersection of jazz, rock and world music, the musical edifice known as Garaj Mahal has become a popular attraction on the burgeoning jam-band scene since forming in early 2000. Mixing styles would seem to come naturally to guitarist Fareed Haque, who's of Pakistani and Chilean ancestry, and bassist Kai Eckhardt, son of a German mother and a Liberian father, but both men also bring some serious jazz credentials to the party. Haque's worked with many big-name performers, including Paquito D'Rivera, Lester Bowie and Ramsey Lewis. Eckhardt, a graduate of the Berklee School of Music, has recorded and toured with seminal fusion guitarist John McLaughlin, trumpeter Randy Brecker and drummers Bob Moses, Alphonse Mouzon, Steve Smith, Billy Cobham and Trilok Gurtu. Meanwhile, drummer Alan Hertz, a veteran of the Bay Area jam scene, and keyboardist Eric Levy, a Chicago native who studied music under Haque at Northern Illinois University, help bring a rougher rock/funk edge to the mix.
With danceable grooves and a fan-friendly attitude that's endeared the group to jam-band aficionados, Garaj Mahal blends the street and the spiritual. "The music is sophisticated, it's improvisational and it draws on the tradition of jazz, and in that regard it's a jazz band," Haque told jambands.com. "It has kind of an Asian, tribal element to it, but it also has a raw rock element to it."