Taj Mahal can rightfully be called a living legend for his contributions to popular music. With a voice as instantly recognizable as Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, or Dr John, Taj Mahal has throughout his career pushed the envelope of American music forward by incorporating sounds from the Caribbean, Africa, traditional blues and jazz. He has won 3 Grammys from 15 nominations, was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, and presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association.
With Savoy, Taj takes a new direction in his musical journey, exploring classics from the American songbook with his good friend and acclaimed record producer John Simon, whose resume includes producing classic albums by The Band, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Simon & Garfunkel, Gordon Lightfoot, Mama Cass Elliot, David Sanborn, and Michael Franks. Savoy is the realization of a musical collaboration they had been planning for decades, finally locking in the studio time to make it happen in August 2022. Stony Plain Records
Taj Mahal: Savoy
Recorded with the hottest musicians in San Francisco, Savoy is a loving throwback to the sounds of the swing jazz big band era, titled as a tribute to Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom where the music composed by the likes of Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, George Gershwin and Louis Armstrong was performed by a who’s who of iconic artists, and now brought back to life by the one and only Taj Mahal. Stony Plain Records
In the introduction to the first track “Stompin’ at the album,” Taj Mahal talks about his parents meeting for the first time at the famous Savoy Ballroom in Harlem during the initial run of Ella Fitzgerald with the Chick Webb Band in 1938, writes Stony Plain Records co-founder Holger Petersen in the album’s informative liner notes. The album is a loving throwback to the sounds of the swing jazz big band era. With guest vocals of Maria Muldaur on “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and Evan Price’s violin on two tracks, the album covers 14 standards composed by the likes of Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, George Gershwin and Louis Armstrong, brought to life by the unique voice and character of the one and only Taj Mahal.
Taj explains, “I heard [the songs on Savoy] as a kid when all of those people who made those musics were alive and speaking to us through the records. Those weren’t just records to collect. Those were like listening to your relatives, your uncles, your cousins, your grandparents speaking to you through that medium, the medium of music.”
“The music was good then. It’s going to be good now,” concludes Taj, “especially when you got people who really respect what it is. Also, respect the gift they’ve been given. It’s a gift to be able to play music, art, dance, write, do science, whatever, ‘cause you’re contributing to humanity. What you’ve been sent to do, that’s the whole thing.
Taj’s exploration of music began as an exploration of self. He was born in 1942 in Harlem to musical parents — his father was a jazz pianist with Caribbean roots who collaborated with Buddy Johnson, Taj’s godfather. His mother was a gospel-singing school teacher from South Carolina — who cultivated an appreciation for both personal history and the arts in their son. “I was raised really conscious of my African roots,” Taj says. ”My parents came together around music, which was swing and the beginnings of bebop. That was significant, in terms of what kind of music I heard from them.” Blues Rock Review
- Stompin’ At the Savoy
- I’m Just a Lucky So-And-So
- Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You
- Summer Time
- Mood Indigo
- Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby
- Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me
- Sweet Georgia Brown
- Taj Mahal/Maria Muldaur – Baby It’s Cold Outside
- Lady Be Good
- Baby Won’t You Please Come Home
- Killer Joe
- One For My Baby (And One More For the Road)