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The way they jump on these classics it sounds like

Taj & The Sisters wrote some of these songs

last night  (or was it ‘fo day in the morning?).

That’s what I like best about this collaboration



Books by Kalamu ya Salaam


The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)


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Taj Mahal CDs


In Progress & In Motion The Best of Taj Mahal / Giant Step / De Ole Folks at Home The Natch'l Blues /


Kulanjan / The Real Thing / Dancing the Blues / Mo' Blues  / Sacred Island  / Senor Blues


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Taj Mahal and The Pointer Sisters

Collaborate Recreating Blues Classics

Music Commentary by Kalamu ya Salaam



This is a complex undertaking. I want to introduce you to something. Taj Mahal working with The Pointer Sisters. It sounds unlike most of The Pointer Sisters recordings and gives a delightful feminine-rounded frame for Taj’s hyper masculinity—you know, the big old, six-foot something, gruff voiced, handsome-as-sin brown-eyed man standing in your doorway just a grinning about how happy he is to make your acquaintance and would love a chance to get to know you better, ya know, like, on more, shall we say, intimate terms… like that.

Except Taj is really a college-educated Northerner, not a Mississippi-born black man from the years before television. What Wynton did with jazz—not just glanced backward but actually tried to recreate both in fact and in spirit a lot of the music of an era before he was born—Taj did in blues. In fact, I think Taj did it better and on a deeper level.

It’s hard to know when what Taj is doing is him or him doing somebody else. You have to know both Taj himself and a lot of these old cats to fully understand what I mean.

Mtume, I’m sure you don’t remember this, you were a baby when it happened, however in the early seventies when Ahidiana was Egania Street, Taj Mahal came to our school and played for us. The young people gathered around looking at that big old man sitting on the floor playing a kalimba (African thumb piano) and singing and laughing and all. Taj was in town for the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Some kind of way, I got to talk to him, told him about our school and he said he would love to see it, meet the young folks and all. Next thing I knew, we was deep in the Lower Ninth Ward and Taj gave us an impromptu concert.

All of which is to say, I know this man is serious about his music, about his life. Over the years, I followed his career. Interviewed him when he came to town. Hung out with him. For over forty-some years now Taj Mahal has stayed the course and been committed to the blues while expanding his vision of what the blues could be. At another time I will give an overview of his career; for right now let’s just focus on his work with The Pointer Sisters. Please note that at different times Taj is playing guitar, banjo, and upright bass—talk about one man bands!

Although The Pointer Sisters are commercially known as a lounge act that had a couple of pop hits, these ladies, as their coupling with Taj demonstrates, were quite capable purveyors of the blues. They started off with a deep retro forties look, but were super-talented as singers and became pop diva darlings. As their long career evidences, they could do a broad range of the music with gusto, with verve, and with saucy elegance.

So here we have them surrounding Taj—notice I didn’t say “backing” him up. What they do is provide a sound bed for Taj to lounge on. Like some kind of aural hydraulic jacks, they lift up the whole proceedings to a heavenly level. The four sisters are angels. You can hear it. And the joy that shoots back and forth between them is infectious.

What I also wanted to make mention of is that the repertoire is classic stuff they cover in their own way, their personalities governing their interpretations. Check that Sam Cooke has a red rooster song that is a take off from "Red Hen." I know "Sweet Home Chicago" through the iconic delta bluesman Robert Johnson. "Frankie and Albert" references Mississippi John Hurt whom Taj pictures on the cover of Recycling—John and Taj are standing side by side. "Mary Don’t You Weep" is a black church song. Of particular note is that Taj references some of the early progenitors in the style of guitar playing that Taj chooses for each song. Taj’s instrumental work evidences great and sensitive respect for the tradition.

The way they jump on these classics it sounds like Taj & The Sisters wrote some of these songs last night (or was it ‘fo day in the morning?). That’s what I like best about this collaboration: there is an air of newness even though these are songs birthed long before The Sisters or, for that matter, some of them probably before Taj was born. It would have been an instant classic—talk about a contradiction in terms—if Taj and The Pointer Sisters had done a whole album together.

Unfortunately, what could have been a hell of an album never got recorded as such. They did three tracks on a very important Taj album, Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff, which is now out of print. But through Taj’s providence and, I’m pretty certain, at his insistence (or serious encouragement), five live collaboration tracks are included on the In Progress & In Motion 3-CD anthology.

The last track in the jukebox, “Texas Woman Blues,” is from Recycling and sounds like an early Count Basie aggregation from when Basie had a small band roaming around the territory. The other four songs are from In Progress. We can discuss the etiology of this material at another time, for now just sink down into the sudsy sounds, close your eyes, relax, and enjoy.

Source: Breath of Life 

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Born Henry St. Clair Fredericks, Jr. in Harlem, New York, on May 17, 1942, Taj Mahal has created an inimitable and enduring body of work, a bedrock blues flavored with strains of West Indian, Caribbean and African music with elements of jazz, rock and reggae flowing effortlessly through the mix.  A two-time Grammy winner, Taj Mahal opened the untapped potential of the Delta Blues, felt the connection to African soul and island rhythms, and became one of world music's first proponents and champions. . . .

"Throughout my more than 40 years of recording, I have always been an outside-the-box composer/musician/performer and not always understood by the music industry, so it gives me a phenomenal amount of personal pleasure to have Sony/Legacy reissue my whole catalog of music!  This is fabulous news for the legions of fans who have always been unfailingly loyal to me and this music we've shared for the duration of a wonderful and (thank you very much) still on-going career of touring and playing live for fans around the world!," said Taj Mahal.  

"This excitement is amplified even more for everyone (me included) by the first-time release of an excellent live concert from Royal Albert Hall in London, England and an an album of never before released studio musical gems! I'm thrilled that this music is finally coming to the light of day! So go for it babies! Listen and dance your (bleep) off to the music we love so much and glad there's more where that came from! I made the music of my heart and y'all helped!!soultracks

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Taj Mahal Concert Summary

Taj Mahal- vocals, harmonica, banjo, National steel guitar, fife
John Hall- electric guitar
John Simon - piano
Howard Johnson - tuba, baritone saxophone, horn arrangements
Bob Stewart - tuba, flugelhorn, trumpet
Joeseph Daly - tuba, valve trombone
Early McIntyre - tuba, bass trombone
Bill Rich - bass
Greg Thomas - drums
Kwasi "Rocky" DziDzournu - Congas

Whether he was recording solo acoustic, fronting a rock band or weaving his trademark National steel guitar around a tuba-dominated blues band, between 1967 and 1971, Taj Mahal created some of the most consistently engaging modern blues music, inspiring countless other musicians of the era. His multi-instrumental abilities and multicultural vision of the blues transcended previous limitations of the genre and he should be credited for playing an enormous role in revitalizing and preserving traditional blues.

Initially honoring the Mississippi Delta blues masters, his music often emphasized his forceful steel guitar playing and hard hitting vocals, recorded in a sparse manner, not unlike the originals. Teaming up with Native American guitarist, Jesse Ed Davis during the late 1960s and forming a band, Taj Mahal's scope broadened and the music become more hard hitting and dynamic—not to mention amplified!

During the early days of 1971, Taj Mahal began assembling a new group, with the help of the extraordinary tuba player and arranger Howard Johnson, and began achieving a bigger more soulful sound with increasing variety. The band was overloaded with talent, including musician, producer, arranger John Simon at the piano, the guitarist from Janis Joplin's Pearl album, John Hall (who would soon take off with his own band Orleans) and Buddy Miles Express bassist Bill Rich. Drummer Greg Thomas and percussionist Kwasi "Rocky" DziDzournu round out the core unit. However it was Howard Johnson and his fellow tuba and horn playing buddies, Bob Stewart, Joseph Daly and Early McIntyre that largely contributed to this band being so memorable.

The testament until now has been Taj Mahal's most popular album, The Real Thing which captured this unit live on stage during a Fillmore East stand in February of 1971. Presented here is Taj Mahal performing with the same configuration on the third and final night of that run. For those enamored with this all too brief era of Taj Mahal's career, this recording is quite the treat as it contains what are essentially alternate takes of some of Taj Mahal's most vital material.

This night is also notable because it was simulcast live on New York City's WPLJ FM as A Night at Fillmore East, part of a new series of live radio broadcasts that were becoming increasingly popular. Elton John's November, 17 1970 performance at A&R Studios, later released in part as his first live album, was the debut broadcast in the series.—wolfgangsvault

Concert Vault


Queen Bee

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The Great Divergence

America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It

By Timothy Noah

For the past three decades, America has steadily become a nation of haves and have-nots. Our incomes are increasingly drastically unequal: the top 1% of Americans collect almost 20% of the nation’s income—more than double their share in 1973. We have less equality of income than Venezuela, Kenya, or Yemen. What economics Nobelist Paul Krugman terms "the Great Divergence" has until now been treated as little more than a talking point, a club to be wielded in ideological battles. But it may be the most important change in this country during our lifetimes—a sharp, fundamental shift in the character of American society, and not at all for the better. The income gap has been blamed on everything from computers to immigration, but its causes and consequences call for a patient, non-partisan exploration.

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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story

of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer

American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest.

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The White Masters of the World

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W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 20 May 2012




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