Garaj Mahal: Pundit-Ji
w00t (Owl 00125)
Eric Levy (keyboards),
Kai Eckhardt (bass), Fareed Haque (guitar), Alan Hertz (drums).
Composed by Fareed Haque.
Recorded: California, Indiana and North Carolina, May 2007-April 2008
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
If Garaj Mahal's "Pundit-Ji" doesn't sound like it came straight out of the Mahavishnu Orchestra II Style Book, I am a monkey's uncle. This is no surprise really, as band members are on record as being fans of Mahavishnu and the whole fusion movement. The roots of this band are firmly planted in the genre. The whole jam-band movement is groove-based jazz-rock nourished further by the seeds of funk and world music.
But wait, this can't be! Somehow I hear Jean Luc Ponty's soaring violin arpeggios in the song's intro. Ponty is not listed in the credits. Hmm. It must be synthesizer player Eric Levy. Anyhow, the band plays the catchy head arrangement in tight unison. Guitarist Fareed Haque next takes a hot solo. At first he sounds a bit like Tommy Bolin, then morphs into the John McLaughlin heard on Love Devotion Surrender. It is an impressive display. Haque can burn with the best of them. Levy shows up to add a lighter, but no less effective turn on synthesizer. Next bassist Kai Eckhardt and drummer Alan Hertz present a nasty groove that leads to the song's coda. "Pundit [maestro]-Ji [respect]" is an invigorating workout for the heart and mind that honors fusion's forefathers. Garaj Mahal is living proof that really good fusion music is still with us now, and in very able hands for further cultivating.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky