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Cai Marle Garcia

Mr. Ears


by Ian Mann

June 21, 2009


Enjoyable Weather Report inspired fusion from this talented young bassist

Cai Marle Garcia is a young (23 years of age) electric bass player living in London. He honed his skills on the renowned Weekend Arts College jazz course tutored by saxophonist Tim Whitehead and also picked up some valuable playing experience on a trip to Australia where he recorded the album “Maladaption” with guitarist Ollie Hayden-Mulligan. 

Back in London Garcia worked with his fusion project Mr. Ears the music eventually being documented on this album available exclusively through Garcia’s website

He has also worked as part of an as yet unrecorded quartet with pianist Richard Fairhurst, saxophonist Russell Van Den Berg and drummer Martyn Kaine.
As a bassist Garcia specialises on the fretless electric instrument and names the great Jaco Pastorius as his primary influence alongside other great fusion bassists such as Stanley Clarke and Alphonso Johnson. His playing has won the endorsement of the UK’s own Laurence Cottle as well as that of former tutor Whitehead.
For the Mr. Ears recording (even the title seems to be a nod to Weather Report) Garcia has assembled a fluctuating cast of quality musicians including saxophonist Tony Woods and rising keyboard star Kit Downes.

The music is audibly influenced by 70’s fusion with the spirit of Weather Report writ large. It’s pleasantly melodic and immaculately played with Garcia’s rippling, bubbling bass at the heart of the sound providing the stimulus for some classy soloing from his colleagues. Downes is particularly impressive on the lively opener “Another One Gone” on what sounds like an old fashioned analogue synth. Duncan Eagles’ earthy sax and Martyn Kaine’s neat, crisp drumming also feature. 

Eagles also features prominently on the following “Moonlit In Mayotte” alongside Downes (again soloing on synth),Kaine and percussionist Stuart Semple. Initially the tune is reminiscent of Weather Report’s “A Remark You Made” before morphing into a breezy Latin shuffle in the second part of the tune. Garcia’s lovely liquid electric bass adds a beautiful coda, sounding remarkably like Jaco in one of his more lyrical moments.

“Orpheus” deploys a different line up of Rob Sell(sax), Steve Kite (keyboards) and Dan Paton (drums). Sell’s lyrical soprano snakes around Kite’s intermittently funky Rhodes and Garcia’s nimble bass, the latter alternating between the strutting and the lyrical.

Kite and Paton are still around for the funky “Crazy Bee” which features the twin horns of Tony Woods (sax) and trumpeter Freddie Gavita. Both acquit themselves well but it’s the trumpeter’s velvety solo that takes the honours. Unfortunately my promo copy cuts out half way through this track and the following “Rio” is sadly unplayable. Maybe the title and the presence of Semple’s percussion in the credits gives an idea of what it should sound like.
Things are back to normal for “The Black Beast Of Bolivia” (great title) an atmospheric piece of writing that features Woods’ serpentine soprano and another impressive solo from Gavita. Semple’s percussion adds a suitably exotic feel and there are strong contributions from Kite, Paton and guitarist Sagat Guirey. Of all the tracks thus far this one is probably the furthest from the Weather Report template and is all the better for it. It shows Garcia’s potential to find a truly individual identity.
“The Z Man” I assume to be a dedication to the great, relatively recently departed Joe Zawinul. It’s a tender, affectionate portrait in ballad mode sketched by Garcia, Sell on sax plus Kite and Paton. Gently lyrical bass and saxophone take centre stage on this haunting, effective tune, another of the album’s best. 

The leader’s bass pulse is the driving force of the closing “Helsinki Special” with Guirey finally stepping into the limelight with a fiery and inventive solo. Perhaps Mahavishnu or electric era Chick Corea were also influences here. Other moments are quiet and impressionistic with Kite’s keyboard washes adding to the atmosphere. Garcia and Sell also weigh in with impressive solos before journey’s end. 

Garcia is a highly talented young musician with awesome chops. At his tender age he is still in thrall to his influences but tracks such as “Black Beast..” show the individual writer beginning to emerge. “Mr. Ears” is an enjoyable listen in it’s own right regardless of the Weather Report comparisons and any line up Garcia chooses to deploy in a live context is sure to be entertaining.

His current project features album personnel Eagles, Downes,  Guirey, Kaine and Semple.

There is considerable potential here. Cai Marle Garcia is definitely a name to watch.

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