Guest Blog: Taj Mahal Concert Review
Dr. Squeeze, a frequent guest blogger at Hearth Music, had the good fortune to attend the recent Taj Mahal concert at Centrum’s Acoustic Blues Festival. We asked him for a review.
Dr. Squeeze Guest Blog: Taj Mahal Concert Review
Taj Mahal made a whirlwind appearance at the 2011 Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival and I was fortunate enough to score some tickets to the sold out show (thank you Centrum and Hearth Music). He was touring with his trio, Bill Rich on bass and Kester Smith on drums, and the band dropped in for an unforgettable set on Wednesday, August 3rd in the unique McCurdy Pavilion, a former blimp hanger at Fort Worden. The venue was jam packed, with extra seats added to the already filled 1,200. The crowd was charged up with many boomers like myself who had last seen Taj Mahal probably back in the 80’s. The whole front section was reserved for the folks who were participating in the week long blues workshop camp and they were a rowdy and happy bunch. Taj Mahal had already treated them to an informal chat session that afternoon.
The evening show opened with Corey Harris, the present Artistic Director of the Centrum Blues Festival. Corey is a highly accomplished guitarist who has an impressive command of the blues idiom as well as jazz, reggae, gospel, African and Caribbean music. His playing reminds me of a young Taj Mahal, who I admired in the early 80’s for his musical explorations of the blues and its roots. After a few wonderful acoustic numbers, Corey was joined by Phil Wiggins on the blues harp. Phil was the Artistic Director on the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival from 2003-2008. This was superb acoustic blues and the sound was just perfect – taking me back to the old recordings of such blues duos as Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.
After Corey’s too-short set, Taj Mahal came on stage and the crowd went wild. He started with some hard-rockin’ blues numbers on electric guitar and the show was on. We were treated to his signature easy-going stage presence and performances of several of his old standards such as “Fishin’ Blues”, “Corinna” and “Creole Belle”. For me, the highlight of the evening was his short duet with Cheick Hamala Diabaté, the master of the ngoni, a Malian instrument that is a stringed lute and ancestor of the banjo. After some preliminary banter in French, Taj Mahal started up a solid groove on the guitar and Diabaté wove his way around it with intricate runs on his instrument and solid singing. The blues was back to its roots!
I left just as Taj Mahal was finishing his last number, since I had to catch the last ferry back to Seattle, but I could still hear the roar of the crowd in the parking lost, as they chanted and stomped for more. I felt just as satisfied with Taj and the blues as I had at that concert way back 30 years ago. We hadn’t aged a bit.
(Photo by Charlie Bermant)
This post originally appeared on the Hearth Music Blog. Check out our website and roam through our blog and Online Listening Lounge to discover your next favorite artist! We’re dedicated to promoting today’s best Roots/Americana/World musicians.