Taj Mahal, born Henry St. Claire Fredericks Jr., has spent a lifetime making and sharing American musical history not just in the Blues, but across all genres, On his latest release, Savoy, Mahal takes us on a journey through his musically formative years, covering Jazz classics he was exposed to as a boy being raised by his Gospel-singing mother and his father, the Afro-Caribbean Jazz arranger and pianist, Henry St. Claire Fredericks Sr.
Kicking off “Stompin’ At The Savoy,” which begins with the music fading up under a Mahal narration of being exposed to all this great music when he was, “like… seven, eight, nine years-old,” Savoy slides effortlessly into a collection of seminal chestnuts from an era of classic composers like Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Louis Jordan, Johnny Mercer and more. While staying true to the original spirit of each tune, Mahal's unique imprint – developed over the course of a diverse, 50+-year career – across the track list is his deep, resonant and expressive trademark vocals capturing the emotion and musical beauty inherent in the selections. In addition to the opening track, some other stand outs include a sultry “Gee Baby Ain’t I Been Good To You,” a Swing treatment of Gershwin’s “Summer Time,” the Jazz-inflected “Sweet Georgia Brown,” a downright steamy version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” duet with featured vocalist Maria Muldaur and the album closer, a slow, coaxing Blues take on “One For Baby (And One More For The Road).”
Taj Mahal has been exposing his audience to all forms of Roots music since forming Rising Sons with Ry Cooder and others in L.A. in 1966. Originally steeped in the Blues, Mahal – who started out as a child learning piano, then clarinet, trombone and harmonica – learned how to play guitar in his early-teens, taking his talent to explore Classical, African, and Caribbean styles, melding them all into an style uniquely his own. Having collaborated with contemporaries that include Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Wynton Marsalis, Lee Ritenour and Jack Johnson, Mahal has stacked up honors that includes Grammys, an honorary doctorate from The University of Massachusetts and a United States Congressional Recognition Award for a lifetime contribution to the World’s History of Music, the last being a category that Savoy is a superlative example of. Stations already supporting this trip through mid-century Harlem starts with WMOT and continues to WNCW, WMNF and Acoustic Café.