One of the greatest bass players on the planet, the Liberian/German expatriate Kai Eckhardt, has made his home in Berkeley, after thrilling audiences around the world. His resume features a veritable who’s who of the fantastic jazz and world musicians; guitarist John McLaughlin, drummer Billy Cobham, percussionist Trilok Gurtu, Stanley Clarke, Wayne Shorter, Patrice Rushen, Dewey Redman, Donald Byrd, Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten and his band Garaj Mahal, to name but a few. Eckhardt’s latest album “Zeitgeist”, is jazzy blend of funk, Indian ragas and straight-up, butt-kicking electric jazz. Eckhardt’s band in fact released his new album at Yoshi’s in Oakland a few weeks ago. For that performance, Eckhardt enlisted Baltimore’s Dana Hawkins on drums, Australia’s Chris Robinson on electric guitar and the North African keyboardist, Osam Ezzeldin. If you missed it, you can download it via his website.
Early fans of Eckhardt’s will no doubt recall his work with Cobham, and his opening cut “Seven Cows Jumping Over the Moon” and “Chester the Pester” are masterful nods to those days; If you liked those tunes, you will certainly enjoy the organ flavored and rhythmic romp, “The Wake-Up Call” and the electric “Mary Poppins”. Eckhardt certainly takes no prisoners on these cuts which are among my personal favorites.
Bassists will also enjoy his remarkable solo piece, “Giant Slaps”; an inventive and inspired take on the classic “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane. The grooving and thoughtful tune “From the North to the South” and the album’s closing cut, “KK Express”, for this listener, conjured memories of another amazing show Eckhardt performed a few years ago at Yoshi’s with Gurtu’s “Glimpse” band.
Eckhardt shows no signs of slowing down and thankfully so; I’ll be looking forward to his next live performance as well as recordings he appears on. Here is a clip of the aforementioned tune “Mary Poppins”, from a recent performance in Sacramento, CA by one of the truly great “spirits of our time”, Kai Eckhardt.
E. Doctor Smith is a musician and recording artist with Edgetone Records, who has worked with the likes of Brian Eno, Madonna, Warren Zevon, Mickey Hart and many others. He is also the Arts & Entertainment editor for Beyond Chron and inventor of the musical instrument, the Drummstick.