Taj Mahal Trio
Venue: Meymandi Concert Hall
Date/Time: Saturday, February 18, 2012 | 8:00pm
General Public: $25, $30, $35
Members: $20, $25, $30
Photo by: Jay Blakesberg
For more than 40 years, Taj Mahal has been playing and exploring music from around the world. The composer, multi-instrumentalist, and two-time Grammy winner is one of the most prominent and influential figures in late 20th century blues and roots music. With 50 albums to his credit, Taj’s repertoire spans nearly a generation of music history, and his musical range has included American blues and music representing virtually every corner of the world – west Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, the Hawaiian islands, and so much more. What ties it all together is his insatiable interest in musical discovery. In 2009, Taj was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, Tennessee. The Taj Mahal Trio is: Taj on guitar, piano and banjo; Bill Rich on bass; Kester Smith on drums. Rolling Stone Magazine wrote of Taj Mahal: “One of the enduring figures in American blues.”
"With Taj, it's not just the music - although that's of course the big thing. It's the whole social history and musicology and awareness that comes with listening to his music," said Jay Sieleman, executive director of the Blues Foundation (as quoted in MassLive.com).
Taj discovered his stepfather's guitar and became serious about it in his early teens, when a guitarist from North Carolina moved in next door and taught him the various styles of Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, and other titans of Delta and Chicago blues. Prior to the guitar, Taj had learned piano, clarinet, trombone, and harmonica, and he loved to sing.
Musicians from the Caribbean, Africa and all over the U.S. frequently visited his family’s home, and Taj became increasingly fascinated with the origins of all the different forms of music he was hearing, what path they took to reach their current form, and how they influenced each other along the way. He threw himself into the study of older forms of African-American music.
Born Henry St. Claire Fredericks in Harlem in 1942, Taj grew up in Springfield and studied agriculture at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the early 1960s. Inspired by a dream, he adopted the musical alias Taj Mahal and formed the popular band the Elektras. After graduating, he headed west to Los Angeles, where he formed the Rising Sons, a six-piece outfit that included guitarist Ry Cooder. The band was one of the first interracial groups of the time, and they opened for numerous high-profile touring artists of the '60s, including Otis Redding, the Temptations, and others. Around this same time, Taj also mingled with various blues legends, including Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Lightnin' Hopkins and Sleepy John Estes. Rising Sons recorded one album for Columbia, and a couple years later Taj worked with Cooder and four other musicians (Jessie "Ed" Davis-lead guitar, piano; Bill Boatman-rhythm guitar; James Thomas-bass; Chuck Blackwell-drums) to record his own debut album, Taj Mahal, for Columbia.
Taj lived in Hawaii in the 1980s and recorded two projects with Hula Blues: Sacred Island (1998), a blend of Hawaiian music and blues, and Hanapepe Dream (2003). He worked with Indian classical musicians for 1995’s Mumtaz Mahal, and in 1999 he and Malian kora player Toumani Diabate collaborated to create Kulanjan. His two Grammys were for 1997’s Senor Blues and 2000’s Shoutin’ in Key. His most recent album, Maestro: Celebrating 40 Years, is a 12-track collection that includes original material, chestnuts borrowed from classic sources, and songs written by a cadre of highly talented guest artists.
PineCone is honored to present the Taj Mahal Trio to close out the 2011-2012 Down Home Concert series. Make plans now to hear this legendary blues musician right here in Raleigh!
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