Selected by Dan Grunebaum

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal
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 fruitful career.

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 (, the bluesman has launched a series of interactive workshops explaining the origins of Chicago, West Texas and Delta blues that appear on BluesBlitz (

"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 for details.

Concert Listings
394: Regurgitator
393: Art Garfunkel


392: Belle and Sebastian
391: Super Furry Animals
390: Ben Folds
389: Elton John
388: Dido
387: Papa Roach
386: Beast Feast 2001
385: Summersonic
384: David Sylvian
383: Maxi Priest & Big Mountain
382: Fuji Rock Festival 01
381: Roxy Music
380: Bo Diddley
379: John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussain in Remember Shakti
378: Paul Weller
377: Coolio
376: Backyard Babies
375: Marcus Miller
374: Black Crowes
373: Megadeath
372: Dionne Warwick
371: Arrested Development
370: Mouse on Mars
369: Duran Duran
368: Linkin Park
367: Maceo Parker
366: Japan Blues Carnival 2001
365: Ben Harper
364: Cheap Trick
363: Stephen Malkmus
362: Mogwai
361: Weezer
360: Marilyn Manson
359: Green Day
358: AC/DC
357: Richard Thompson
356: Bob Dylan
355: J. Mascis
354: Leigh Stephen Kenny
352/3: Limp Bizkit
351: Boyz II Men
350: Reef
349: Park Tower Blues Festival
348: Roni Size
347: Compay Segundo
346: Incognito
345: Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes
344: Bad Religion
343: Japan Soul Festival 2000
342: Rocktober 2000
341: Richard Ashcroft
340: Motorhead
339: Festival Halou
338: Ricky Martin
337: Taj Mahal
336: Asian Dub Foundation
335: Lou Reed
334: Earth, Wind & Fire
333: Sting
332: No Doubt
331: Camel
330: Fuji Rock: Smash Talks
329: Summer Sonic
328: Mt. Fuju Aid 2000
327: Salif Keita
326: Buena Vista Social Club
325: Bill Frisell
324: Maxi Priest
323: Lenine
322: Rage Against the Machine
321: Tommy Flanagan Trio
320: Smashing Pumpkins
319: Pet Shop Boys
318: Japan Blues Carnival
317: Gipsy Kings
316: Steely Dan
315: Pshish
314: Big Night Out
313: Femi Kuti and the Positive Force
312: Harry Connick Jr.
311: Sonny Rollins
310: Speech
309: Santana