Mill Valley, CA – April 26, 2017 – Grammy nominated spiritual music pioneer Jai Uttal will perform at Marin County’s Mill Valley Community Center, 180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley, CA 94941, at 8pm on May 26. The event will continue Jai’s live events juggernaut promoting his 19th album Roots! Rock! Rama! that has taken him to packed shows in LA, Miami, Maui and a recent record setting event at NorCal’s devotional center Spirit Rock. Celebration, meditation, dance of the devas, and love song to the universe, this event is all of that and more. Tickets are $30 in advance here.
Jai will be joined by members of his Bhakti Band: Ben Leinbach on drums, Greg Barnett on bass, and Prajna Vieira and Sandy Cressman on vocals. Clarion-call horn charts will be contributed by Jeff Cressman (Santana, Don Cherry, Trey Anastasio, Charlie Hunter, Tito Puente, Shelia E, Joshua Redman, others). The group will also be joined by Brazilian-born guitarist Jose Neto (Harry Belafonte, Hugh Masekela, George Benson, Steve Winwood) who produced three tracks on the new album along with Ami Molinelli, an amazing Brazilian percussionist.
Clearly named after Bob Marley’s classic track “Roots Rock Reggae,” this project does celebrate the influence that reggae had on Uttal’s interpretation of classic Indian ragas. However, the title also refers to the practice of kirtan as the root of his life, the rock that is his foundation, and his devotion to Rama (God) throughout his work.
Of the album, top music trade magazine Hits says it’s “simply undeniable” and about the live show adds “the mood was as purely positive, inclusive and uplifting as any gig I can recall. And isn’t that exactly what we need these days?” LA Yoga says “There’s no way to sit still as this music plays and it’s easy to see how the live concerts Jai will perform in celebration of this collection will go down as unforgettable.” And the Marin Independent Journal adds, “The production values are impeccable and the call and response between Uttal and his chorus of backup singers is heavenly.”
Common Ground raves “This spectacular DBL CD is a journey through the splendors, riches and tribulations of the India sub-continent, musically, spiritually and globally. Jai Uttal has reigned over the Nor Cal kirtan/chant scene for three decades. His musical monarchy has been a rollicking, beneficent parade of high energy and sacred spirit through 18 albums and countless live shows. While kirtan is not a ‘musical genre’, Jai has infused his world vision with an amalgam of reggae, blues, Indian and Beatles-inspired pop music. All of these have come together on his celebratory Roots, Rock, Rama! — an ultra-dynamic raise the roof high and open the heart wide offering.”
Kirtan is a call and response singing style popular with yoga practitioners who are now over 36 million strong in the US! Jai is a favorite performer on the growing yoga festival circuit, playing to thousands each summer at Bhakti Fests and other events. He also leads his own workshops and retreats that deepen yogis practice of the heart based Bhakti yoga method that is chanting the names of god to further enlightenment.
Co-produced with Uttal in 2016 by noted Northern California producer Ben Leinbach, the album is a double CD/extra-long stream with 12 5-12 minute tracks for about 80 minutes of music (typical of Kirtan, but also of that other California music staple – jam music!). CD 1 or the first 6 tracks are “Rama Sun” and are the more reggae influenced tracks (such as H.A.R.I., please listen here) – deeply steeped in earthy rhythms, hypnotic bass lines, jubilant horn charts and soulful vocal harmonies. CD 2, the next 6 tracks are “Rama Moon” and find Uttal in an entirely different mood. Grounded in the gentle, lilting sway of Brazilian samba (such as S.A.M.B.A., check out the video here), it also touches on the pastoral splendor of the more acoustic tracks from the Beatles’ White Album. The Beatles are another major influence, and Jai has brought their pioneering fusion of Indian music and Western pop into the 21st century.
With a unique boomer upbringing in the NYC music biz of the 50s and 60s (as a child he was at the session where Mitch Ryder recorded “Devil With a Blue Dress”!) Uttal understands true musicianship and has worked with top musicians including Bill Laswell, Don Cherry, and his musical guru Ustad Ali Akbar Khan throughout his career.
Additionally, his story flows with that of his generation – in the 70s he studied with Khan in the Bay Area while making extended trips to the Indian Ashram of Neem Karoli Baba the same guru who influenced Ram Dass’ classic Be Here Now. Maharajji, as the guru is known to his students, encouraged the practice of bhakti (devotional) yoga as expressed through kirtan, the call-and-response chanting of sacred names, over and over again until they become deeply instilled in the consciousness, providing an experience of profound peace and spiritual insight. Kirtan would become the center of Jai’s musical and spiritual life.
The 80s were dedicated to his music career which took off in 1990 with his first album Footprints that featured Don Cherry and other notables, launching him into the exploding world music scene. Now, eighteen albums, marriage, fatherhood, a Grammy nomination, and 26 years of worldwide acclaim later Roots! Rock! Rama! continues his legacy.