Though the climate outdoors is pushing 100 levels, it’s comfortably cool contained in the historic Union County Performing Arts Heart in Rahway, NJ this Wednesday, July 20, 2022 night as music lovers await a live performance by multi-Grammy-Award-winning recording artist, Taj Mahal.
With a given identify of Henry St. Claire Fredericks, Jr., Mahal was born in Harlem, NY, on Might 17, 1942. Impressed at a younger age by the work of Gandhi — together with a fascination with India and the concept of social tolerance — Henry Jr. finally modified his identify to Taj Mahal.
Rising up in Springfield, MA, Mahal’s mom was a gospel choir member and his father a jazz pianist, composer, and arranger who regularly hosted musicians from the Caribbean and Africa, along with america. Taj’s mother and father began him out with classical piano classes, however he quickly expanded his musical vary to incorporate research of the clarinet, trombone, and harmonica. He additionally had an actual penchant for singing.
After his father was killed in an accident, his mom remarried and Taj started taking part in his stepfather’s guitar in his early teenagers, turning into severe when a guitarist from North Carolina moved in subsequent door and taught him varied types of Delta and Chicago blues.
On the age of 16, Mahal started engaged on an area dairy farm and, by 19, grew to become a foreman on the farm; in consequence, he considered pursuing a profession in farming. Over time, this ongoing ardour led to him performing frequently at Farm Help live shows.
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Within the early ‘60s, he went on to check agriculture at UMass Amherst, the place he shaped his band, The Elektras. After commencement, he headed west to Los Angeles and based The Rising Sons, a six-piece group which included guitarist Ry Cooder. The band opened for quite a few high-profile ‘60s-era artists together with Otis Redding, the Temptations, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.
Across the similar time, Mahal additionally had the chance to work with varied blues legends, notably Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Buddy Man, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Sleepy John Estes.
This range of musical expertise served because the bedrock for Mahal’s first three recordings: 1967’s Taj Mahal, 1968’s The Natch’l Blues, and 1969’s Big Step. These three seminal albums confirmed indicators of the musical exploration that might turn out to be Mahal’s hallmark in years to come back.
Within the ‘70s, Mahal carved out a novel musical area of interest with a string of recordings together with the Grammy-nominated soundtrack to the movie, Sounder. Within the ‘80s, he grounded himself within the music and tradition of his new residence in Hawaii, along with releasing three celebrated kids’s albums. Within the ‘90s, he launched his Grammy-winning recording, Señor Blues, and in 2018, he recorded his Grammy-winning blues album, TajMo. Altogether, Mahal has been nominated for ten Grammy Awards.
Inside the attractive Union County Performing Arts Heart, the lights dim and the announcement is made, “Girls and gents, The Taj Mahal Quartet.” Taj Mahal and his group — Invoice Wealthy on bass, Kester Smith on drums, and Bobby Ingano on guitars — enter dancing to recorded music as viewers members clap, hoot, and holler.
Taking a seat amongst a set of distinctive stringed devices, Mahal welcomes the group and introduces his first music acknowledging, “It is a tune you may not know. It’s a narrative music a few choose, a choose’s spouse, corn liquor, the ‘perpetrator,’ and a lady named Nel.” His bluesy and gravelly voice is low and laughing as he cries, “You recognize you doing time companion/‘Trigger you might have performed the crime,” on “Sluggish Drag,” a blues quantity which options Mahal selecting and strumming on the banjo.
The group cheers and Mahal and Co. launch into “Convey It With You When You Come,” a quantity with an island vibe which options Mahal smiling as he performs the ukulele. On the conclusion, Mahal reveals, “Individuals — in 2026, that music will probably be 100 years outdated. The explanation I like outdated music is as a result of the tales don’t go away. As a lot as individuals change, the songs are nonetheless the identical.”
Mahal’s voice cries out above the band on the bluesy “Performed Modified My Manner of Dwelling,” and the group cheers after they acknowledge the intro to “Fishin’ Blues.” Viewers members fortunately take part singing on the tune’s catchy “I’m a goin’ fishin’/Sure, I’m goin’ fishin’/And my child goin’ fishin’ too” refrain on this nation blues quantity which incorporates a twangy Taj Mahal guitar solo.
The group whistles and cheers for Mahal’s gradual bluesy cowl model of The Grateful Lifeless’s “Corrina,” and Mahal has enjoyable on the driving blues quantity, “Queen Bee,” the place the viewers sings together with him on the music’s interesting “Rock me to my soul” chorus.
Viewers members cheer, and Mahal replies, “Thanks! How are we feeling?” earlier than inquiring, “Anyone right here know how you can do the stroll?” Viewers members clap alongside as Mahal strums laborious and engaging on the 12/8 blues, “Bettye and Dupree,” the place Bobby Ingano performs an impressed electrical guitar solo and the group responds with avid applause.
Following the rhythmic people tune, “Lovin’ in my Child’s Eye,” which has music lovers singing alongside and dancing within the aisles to the straightforward groove, Mahal and Co. carry out a reggae-style association of “Stagger Lee,” the place Mahal shakes his head as he spins a musical yarn on this basic story music.
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On “Crusing into Walker’s Cay” Mahal performs a snippet of Jimi Hendrix’s ”Purple Haze” on his hollow-bodied electrical guitar earlier than asking the group to “journey the rhythm” by clapping on beats two and 4 to percussionist Kester Smith’s stable drumming.
Following the reggae-inspired “After I Really feel the Sea Beneath My Soul,” Mahal and his quartet current a bluesy rendition of “C. C. Rider” the place Invoice Wealthy lays down a cool bass line and Mahal’s distorted electrical guitar solo brings shrieks of pleasure from music lovers in the home who grasp on to his each notice.
Mahal exclaims, “Thanks a lot all people!” to which an viewers member cries out, “You’re lifting my soul!” Mahal goes on to say, “We’re fortunate to be the recipients of 100 years of recorded music due to the event of the microphone,” earlier than explaining, “That’s when America began listening to itself.”
After introducing the members of his band, Mahal options guitarist Bobby Ingano on “Twilight in Hawaii.” The attractive strains of Ingano’s Hawaiian metal guitar swirl in regards to the auditorium taking concertgoers on a musical journey. The musicians observe up with a dreamy rendition of Santo and Johnny’s “Sleep Stroll” which has Ingano’s metal guitar calling out as Wealthy’s bass and Smith’s drums maintain the rhythm whereas Mahal drinks within the sounds as he strums alongside on his guitar.
Mahal counts off, “1, 2, 3, 4,” and the band launches into “Blackjack Davey,” a catchy tune with a reggae really feel on which Mahal performs dobro. He and the band then observe up with, maybe, the largest shock of the night — a canopy model of The Monkees’ “Take a Big Step” the place Mahal croons, “Include me depart yesterday behind/And take a large step outdoors your thoughts,” to all the members of the group who react with a standing ovation.
Mahal talks in regards to the essence of his music when he says, “It’s about humanity,” explaining, “I’m not attempting to let you know something you don’t know, however typically you need to say it.”
Mahal recites aloud the lyrics to his music, “Everyone is Anyone,” saying, “If a person is born in luxurious, he’s any individual/If a person is born in poverty, he’s no one/Everyone is any individual/No person is no one.” After warning, “You can be requested to take part along with your arms, your physique, and your voice,” Mahal and Co. carry out the rhythmic quantity with the group becoming a member of in and Mahal declaring, “Let me hear you! Come on, Jersey, replenish the room!”
Viewers members reply by singing with gusto, waving their arms within the air, and dancing to the music’s interesting groove earlier than ending with cheers and a standing ovation. The applause continues as Mahal and his musicians take a bow collectively earlier than they collectively dance off the stage to sustained whistles and cheers.
As viewers members make their approach out of the UCPAC auditorium, we chat with a number of concertgoers who share their ideas on tonight’s efficiency by Taj Mahal. Exclaims Wealthy from Plainfield, “It was go nice to see Taj once more! He placed on an ideal present, as all the time. He’s simply so wonderful, and his voice sounds unbelievable.” Paige from Elizabeth declares, “He’s very passionate! I preferred his facial expressions and the way in which he moved his physique to the music as he performed it. He actually appeared to be having fun with himself.” Evan from Woodbridge concurs, including, “I particularly liked the Hawaiian music — to me, that was so cool!”
Dorothy from Rahway contends, “It was a wonderful live performance — I liked it! His banjo taking part in was fantastic, and I particularly preferred when he performed the outdated blues numbers.”
Dan from Rahway confesses, “Earlier than tonight, I wasn’t conversant in Taj Mahal’s music and it turned out to be a very enjoyable present. Now, I’d wish to see much more exhibits right here at UCPAC.” Janine from Rahway agrees, including, “That is such a good looking venue; I really like the whole lot about it.”
Geoffrey from Ringwood remarks, “I had a good time tonight! I liked the addition of the Hawaiian metal guitar and I particularly liked the songs, ‘Corina’ and ‘Take a Big Step,’” earlier than noting, “I even introduced my mom with me tonight. That is her first live performance in a very long time. She all the time had a rock and roll aspect to her and, like me, she had a good time tonight.” Exclaims Geoffrey’s mom, Carol from Ringwood, “I liked this present! I learn in regards to the live performance and I used to be inquisitive about it. I like all types of music and I used to be stunned at how a lot I preferred Taj Mahal and his band,” previous to including, “Plus, this theater is a jewel.”
Georgia from Jersey Metropolis acknowledges, “The final time I heard Taj Mahal, I used to be in school, and he sounded higher than ever tonight,” earlier than noting, “I additionally liked all of the power he dropped at the present.” Lastly, we chat with Linda from Westfield who exclaims, “What an ideal live performance — I liked it!” earlier than recalling, “The final time I noticed Taj Mahal was again within the Seventies, and I can guarantee you he’s nonetheless as nice now as he was again then!”
To be taught extra about Taj Mahal, please go to tajblues.com. For info on future live shows at UCPAC — together with Dionne Warwick on September 9, Josh Turner on October 20, Little River Band on October 29, Black Violin on November 10, and Mandy Patinkin on February 18, 2023 — please click on on ucpac.org.
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