When you mention the name Taj Mahal, you’re likely to get one of two responses. The most common first response would be a reference to the iconic ivory-white marble mausoleum located in India. However, when you mention Taj Mahal to music fans, they will instantly think of the iconic Grammy-winning Blues musician. Born Henry St. Clair Fredericks Jr., he’s been performing under the stage name Taj Mahal for over 60 years. He chose his new name while studying agriculture and farming in college, eventually abandoning a career as a farmer in favor of becoming a professional musician. While known for being a guitarist, he’s a well-rounded musician who also plays piano, banjo, harmonica, and several other instruments.
Taj Mahal’s musical career gained steam in 1964 when he formed Rising Sons with fellow Blues guitarist Ry Cooder. Although the group recorded enough material for an album, they only managed to release a single before breaking up (their unreleased recording would finally be issued in the 1990s). Before moving on to a solo career, Mahal worked with several high-profile Blues artists including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Buddy Guy. Taj Mahal first came to commercial prominence with the release of his self-titled 1968 debut album, followed quickly by the albums THE NATCH’L BLUES (1968) and the double album GIANT STEP/DE OLE FOLKS AT HOME (1969). By 1972, he had branched into film work, composing the music for the acclaimed motion picture SOUNDER and even appearing as a supporting character in the film. Taj Mahal has continued to release many well-received albums since then, winning Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 1997, 2000, and 2018.
Now, a year after his Grammy-nominated GET ON BOARD album – which was a collaboration with his old friend Ry Cooder – Taj Mahal returns with his album SAVOY. On this highly anticipated release, Mahal dips into the bluesy side of the ‘American Songbook’ and offers up a platter of old classics performed as only Taj Mahal can. Featuring “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road),” and “Stompin’ At The Savoy,” the album finds him blending Jump Blues, Jazz, Chicago Blues, and Swing into something that sounds uniquely like Taj Mahal. Veteran vocalist Maria Muldaur even joins him on a playful version of the (holiday) classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” With music composed by legendary songwriters such as Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, George Gershwin, and Louis Armstrong, amongst others, SAVOY is an album that serves as a nostalgic glimpse into the past while also remaining very much in the here and now. Now that Taj Mahal has done all the work, it’s time for YOU to get stompin’ at the SAVOY! What are you waiting for?