Friday, June 17, 2005

Garaj Mahal is fantastic, Mars Volta's interesting, but what about John Mayer?

My newest infatuation is Garaj Mahal. I discovered them a while ago when I downloaded one of their live performances from Just recently I got their album Mondo Garaj. It is hands down the best new album I've heard in a long time, and I am eager to hear their new one, Blueberry Cave.

There's no weak link in this band. Each has an impressive resume including everyone from Ray White and Steve Kimmock to Bela Fleck and John McLaughlin. It's funk, it's fusion, it's odd-meter melodic instrumentals and flat-out scary improv. I can't say enough about this band - get the album, see them live, or at the very least, go to their web site and download the 6 free MP3's and see for yourself.

So who would have thought that, in 2005, we'd see a buzz generated around a real-life honest-to-goodness progressive band, like the Mars Volta? One of the hardest thing for me to do these days it keep an open and objective mind about new music. So much of it is so contrived, formulaic, or just boring that it is easy to become jaded, I've found. So imagine my surprise when I heard what sounded like mid-70s progressive music coming from a co-worker's office. I asked if it was Marillion or Dream Theatre and he said it was Mars Volta.

I've still not heard much by this band, but after hearing this little bit plus the piece I've heard on NPR, I'm willing to seek out some more. The thing about the progressive stuff is that, while it is musically more interesting that most of the stuff you hear, but by the same token a lot of progressive music can fall into the trap of taking itself way too seriously. The funny thing, though, is the more time goes by and the more ridiculous dreck I hear, the less this matters to me - I'm just happy to find something new, interesting, and at least a little cerebral.

Now can someone tell me what is up with John Mayer? He's played with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters at Bonaroo. He's playing with John Scofield on his new album and even appeared with him on The Tonight Show the other day - and even traded licks with Sco! Since when is John Mayer for real? What album should I get that shows his talent off, because everything I've heard by him before now has all seemed a little forgettable. So help me out, where should I go to find the real John Mayer?


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