Selected by Dan
Courtesy of Blue Note Tokyo
More a living encyclopedia of the blues than a bluesman in the traditional sense, Taj
Mahal drops in for a weeklong engagement at the Blue Note in October.
Born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks in 1940 to a New York City jazz arranger, Taj Mahal
first developed his interest in black music by studying it in university. After a stint
performing on the Boston club scene, he migrated to the West Coast, forming the Rising
Sons with guitarist Ry Cooder and drummer Ed Cassidy.
When the band' projected debut album was cancelled, he relaunched his solo career,
releasing his first album, Taj Mahal in 1968. The album was an authoritative
collection of electrified country blues that set Taj Mahal on the road to a long and
Taj's early career reached its peak with the release of Giant Steps/The Ole Folks At
Home, a double album including traditional acoustic and more contemporary
rock-influenced numbers. The album provided a hint of Taj's diverse interests, which were
to see him explore styles from soul and R&B to Caribbean, country and Hawaiian. He has
maintained this chameleon-like versatility over three decades of authoritative releases,
culminating most recently in this summer's Shoutin' In Key.
Taj also doesn't hesitate to make use of the latest high-tech to further the cause of his
decidedly low-tech music. "The blues is ready to move into cyberspace," he
proclaimed in a recent Wall of Sound interview.
Teaming up with MusicBlitz (www.musicblitz.com),
the bluesman has launched a series of interactive workshops explaining the origins of
Chicago, West Texas and Delta blues that appear on BluesBlitz (www.bluesblitz.com).
"The fact is that the blues has always been part of modern technology, even when
Robert Johnson was recording 60 years ago," explained Taj. "And if you don't
take the time to put music into some framework, if it doesn't have some hard currency that
will pass from one generation to the next...from one technology to the next, well, the
next generation won't get it."
Taj Mahal plays
the Blue Note Tokyo on October 9-14. See listings