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MUSIC BOX: Idaho Falls’ cup runneth over
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Isn’t Henry St. Claire Fredericks a great name for a bluesman? Taj Mahal didn’t think so. Inspired by dreams he had about Gandhi and social tolerance, Taj made the name change around the time he enrolled in the agriculture program at University of Massachusetts, majoring in animal husbandry.
While it’s questionable whether or not Taj would have a made a great farmer, his career as a rhythm and blues man has culminated with legendary status. He’s certainly one of my all-time favorites for his crossover into so many different styles and subgenres—jazz, country, calypso, Caribbean, gospel, reggae—and his use of bluesy banjo in roots-rock.
A caveat unknown to many of his fans, Taj’s first band after moving to Santa Monica in 1964 was Rising Sons, a six-piece that included Ry Cooder and Jessie Lee Kincaid. Taj also was mingling with Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Lightin’ Hopkins and Muddy Waters during this period and would soon sign with Columbia Records, where he recorded 12 albums during the late 60s and into the 70s. He has won two Grammys, for his albums Senor Blues and Shoutin’ in Key, and was nominated for a third for 2008’s Maestro.
This particular “World Blues” tour, conceived and produced by Columbia Artists Management, will be the first time Taj Mahal Trio is billed with legendary South African guitarist/vocalist Vusi Mahlasela, as well as Fredericks Brown, a soul/pop band that features Taj’s daughter, Deva Mahal, and Stephanie “Tipsy” Brown, both of whom hail from New Zealand.
“It is not every day that three artists from different worlds, but who speak a common language, come together for a tour,” Taj said. “This used to happen a lot in the 60s and 70s but not as much today. It should be real fun and filled with many surprises.”
African folk musician Vusi Mahlasela began writing and performing during the anti-apartheid movement, delving into themes related to the struggle for freedom. He was repeatedly harassed by the police and even held in solitary confinement for the “crime” of writing songs of freedom and human dignity.
In an interview with Straight.com, Taj had some interesting comments on theaters versus outdoor venues: “I like to play outdoor festivals because people will just dance. Theatre audiences need to ask themselves, ‘What the hell is going on? We’re asking these musicians to come and perform and then we sit there and draw all the energy out of the air.’ That’s why after a while I need a rest. It’s too much of a drain. Often I don’t allow that. I just play to the goddess of music, and I know she’s dancing.”
World Blues featuring Taj Mahal, Vusi Mahlasela and Fredericks Brown, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, at the Colonial Theater in Idaho Falls. $40. 208-522-0471, IdahoFallsArts.org.
The Hunts for Red October
Comprised of five brothers and two sisters, The Hunts have a polished indie-folk sound that belies their teenage years. With an album title like this year’s debut, We Were Young, perhaps they really are experienced beyond their biological age. After all, they have played 42 states and toured internationally. You may have heard their tune “Make This Leap” on a Milk-Bone commercial this past summer.
The Hunts, 7:30 p.m., Monday, at the Colonial Theater in Idaho Falls. $25. 208-522-0471. IdahoFallsArts.org.