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Of John Coltrane and Kenny G...

Garaj Mahal bass player Kai Eckhardt brings Whistler up to speed

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PIQUE : The last time you were here you were just getting ready to release the album Mondo Garaj. Where’s Garaj Mahal going now?

KE: If you think of the history of our music, the "jam band," where musicians improvise live in front of an audience, that goes back to Miles Davis, the album Bitches Brew with John McLaughlin on guitar...

Looking at the scene around us there’s not much going on in that direction. Fusion is a style that disappeared because it became too individualized and egocentric. Musicians can get so self-absorbed they lose the audience.

PIQUE : Do you think alienating the audience musically is a potential problem for Garaj Mahal?

KE: Let’s just say there’s a danger for that to happen.

Look at Kenny G and look at John Coltrane in his heaviest days. Both of them are musicians but John Coltrane’s music does not work as background music. Kenny G’s music works as background music. Background music became huge in the last 10 years because people’s lives are so ruled by the hustle that the only time they have for listening to music is on their way to their job in the car or while they’re doing chores at home, in the background.

There are, of course, a few hardcore music lovers that put on their headphones, get their glass of wine, sit down, and just tune in and trance out. Or the ones that go to shows and open their hearts to what’s going on. John Coltrane has the ability to provide someone with a spiritual revelation. Kenny G has the ability to soothe somebody and make someone feel comfortable in the space they’re in. It’s different music for different functions.

With Garaj Mahal we’re walking on that tightrope right now. We have access to the dance crowd. We love dance music. And we can also go for it and reveal our inner spiritual struggle in front of people, almost to the degree that it’s scary. We feel that energy when it gets really intense and we’re feeling that all four of us are really making it count. Sometimes we actually hyperventilate or our hearts start to skip. There’s a lot of intense energy that comes through and it’s very valuable. But it’s also like a very strong potion. You can O.D. on it and you have to watch out and use it sparsely.

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