A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #
Mahal, Taj
the artist born Henry St. Clair Fredericks (the name Taj Mahal, he has said, came to him early in life in a dream) has proven to be an undeniably prolific musician -- not to imply the gravel-voiced troubador ever had a problem in that area. During the first phase of his career, from '68-'77, the son of a West Indian jazz pianist and Southern gospel singer made 11 records (including two double albums) for Columbia Records and three more for Warner Brothers. During the implicit roots embargo of the '80s, Taj relocated his recording activity overseas and made the occasional children's records. But since his return to full-time recording and touring in '91, he's put out no less than a dozen new recordings and served as the subject of four compilations (including the 3-CD In Progress & In Motion). That track record is all the more remarkable given that not one Taj Mahal album has ever been easy to categorize. With recordings in a variety of blues- and jazz-based settings (both unplugged and "wired") which led up to a period of late-'70s experiments in Caribbean-inspired jamming, most recently Taj has hooked up with classical Indian musicians J.M. Bhatt and N. Rivikiran (Mamtaz Mahal on the Water Lily label), action hero Steven Seagal (for the Fire Down Below soundtrack), a collection of luminaries from his Hawaiian homebase (Taj Mahal and the Hula Blues Band, Sacred Island) and an ensemble of musicians from Mali led by the kora virtuoso Toumani Diabate (last year's Kulanjan). Throughout, he's confounded those critics who want to categorize him as a blues revivalist when, in fact, he has become a living artist in his own right whose primary well of inspiration is the deep blues and R&B traditions of America but whose pioneer inclinations have directed him to connect those blues expressions to other family members, both distance and ancestral.