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TajMo: The Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’ Band

Thursday, September 7, 2017 @ 7:30 pm
Center Theatre
$56 | $65 | $72 | $82

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TajMo: The Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’ Band

TajMo: The Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’ Band brings these two blues titans together on-stage with an all-star band for an exciting night of music, performing songs from their long-anticipated collaborative album set to be released on Concord Records.

While the two have known and influenced each other for decades, and Taj played a key role in Keb’s first record deal, TajMo marks the first proper collaboration between Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’. The album was self-produced by the duo and was mixed by Grammy Award-winner Ross Hogarth and mastered by Grammy Award-winner Richard Dodd. The 11-song set includes covers of John Mayer and The Who, as well as six original songs.

TajMo brings out the best in both artists, with the pair merging their distinctive voices, personalities and guitar styles to create vibrant, immediate music that’s firmly rooted in tradition yet ruled by a playful sense of adventure. “Don’t Leave Me Here” is a love letter to the south that sounds like an instant classic, and “Soul” interweaves world music with blues in a way that only Taj could pull off. Taj and Keb’ put a soulful spin on Mayer’s “Waiting On The World To Change”, on which Bonnie Raitt lends her unmistakable vocals.

“He’s a stellar human being, just a brilliant man,” Keb’ says of Taj, who first saw him play at a high school assembly. “Making this record was a really big deal for me.” “Keb’s really good at keeping the ball up in the air,” Taj notes. “He’s a hell of a guitar player, and I’m just amazed at some of the stuff that he put out there.”

Taj Mahal has been recording and performing his unmistakable blend of blues and world music for over fifty years, winning multiple Grammys and collaborating with the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and more along the way. Keb’ Mo’, who has often cited Taj as one of his musical heroes, is a three-time Grammy Winner who has collaborated with everyone from Raitt to Jackson Browne and Buddy Guy.

In September 2014, Taj Mahal was honored with what he called “one of the most powerful and wonderful things that could ever happen in my life.” The two-time Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, film composer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist was presented with the Lifetime Achievement for Performance Award at the 13th Annual Americana Honors and Awards, which celebrated decades of recording and touring which nearly singlehandedly reshaped the definition and scope of the blues via the infusion of exotic sounds from the Caribbean, Africa and South Pacific.

That night marked another extraordinary year for Mahal, which began with a performance at the Gregg Allman Tribute Concert in Atlanta; performing as part of the Bonnaroo Superjam on a bill featuring Derek Trucks with Chaka Khan, Eric Krasno from Soulive, renowned R&B/blues session drummer James Gadson, David Hidalgo from Los Lobos and Susan Tedeschi; and playing and recording with Van Morrison in Dublin.

Since the release of Maestro in 2008, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album, Mahal has been busier than ever touring and recording at a whirlwind pace. In 2010, after being nominated for Entertainer of the Year by the Blues Foundation, he joined Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night studio band The Roots as a special musical guest on the Rolling Stones classic “Shine a Light.” He also opened in Lake Tahoe for Bob Dylan. One of the highlights of the following year was performing a special opening solo set for Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsalis at Lincoln Center.

After starting 2012 producing and performing (vocals, guitar and banjo) on Vusi Mahlasela’s live album Say Africa, Mahal joined the critically acclaimed Experience Hendrix tour for a three-week run. Later that year he released two collections celebrating the riches and rarities of his musical legacy—the two-disc set The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1967-1973 and The Complete Columbia Albums Collection box set. He capped the year with “An Evening with Taj Mahal” at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.

Mahal (given name Henry St. Claire Fredericks, Jr.) grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father was a jazz pianist, composer and arranger of Caribbean descent, who frequently hosted musicians from the Caribbean, Africa and the U.S. His mother was a schoolteacher and gospel singer from South Carolina. Henry, Sr., had an extensive record collection and a shortwave radio that brought sounds from across the world into their home. “We spoke several dialects in my house—Southern, Caribbean, African—and we heard dialects from eastern and western Europe,” Mahal said.

This diversity of Taj’s musical experiences served as the bedrock for his first three recordings: Taj Mahal (1967), The Natch’l Blues (1968) and Giant Step (1969). Drawing on the eclectic sounds and styles he had absorbed in his youth, these early albums showed signs of the musical exploration that would become Mahal’s hallmark in the years to come. In the 1970s, Mahal released a string of adventurous recordings, including Happy To be Just Like I Am (1971), Recycling the Blues and Other Related Stuff (1972), the Grammy-nominated soundtrack to the movie Sounder (1973), Mo’ Roots (1974), Music Fuh Ya (Music Para Tu) (1977) and Evolution (The Most Recent) (1978). The type of blues he was playing in the early 70s showed an aptitude for spicing the mix with exotic flavors that kept him from being an out-and-out mainstream genre performer.

It all took off for Keb’ Mo’ in 1994 with the self-titled release under his newly coined “Keb’ Mo’” moniker, and he proved once and for all that he was a musical force to be reckoned with. Album after album, eleven in total, garnered him three Grammy awards and a producer/engineer/artist Grammy Certificate for his track on the 2001 Country Album of the Year, Hank Williams Tribute, Timeless. He has received eight additional Grammy nominations including Country Song of the Year for “I Hope,” co-written with The Dixie Chicks, and three alone for his 2014 release, BLUESAmericana including Americana Album of the Year. Keb’ also has been awarded eleven Blues Foundation Awards and six BMI Awards, five of which are from his theme song for the hit television show, Mike and Molly. The list of artist collaborations comprises a veritable who’s who in the music industry and includes Bonnie Raitt, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Jackson Browne, Natalie Cole, Lyle Lovett, Melissa Manchester, Timothy B. Schmit, Marcus Miller and many more. His songs have been recorded by B.B. King, Joe Cocker, Buddy Guy, Solomon Burke, Robert Palmer and Zac Brown Band.

Keb’ is humble and committed to paying it forward. He has proudly been a long-time supporter of the Playing For Change Foundation (PFCF), a nonprofit organization that creates positive change through music and arts education, and 5% of the proceeds from sales of Keb’ Mo’ LIVE benefit the foundation and its cause. PFCF provides free music education to over a thousand children in nine countries and has established twelve music schools around the world. But they even take it a step further, working with partners to address basic needs in the communities where they teach, including providing education, clean water, food, medicines, clothing, books and school supplies, just to name a few. Over 16,000 children and community members have seen drastic quality of life improvements thanks to PFCF.

Additionally, Keb’ is a newly appointed member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities as part of the Turnaround: Arts program, which focuses on elementary and middle schools. Each artist adopts a school in a low-income, underachieving area and becomes a mentor, working with teachers, students, parents and the community to help build a successful arts education program and to highlight the positive impact it will have on students. Keb’ serves as mentor at The Johnson School of Excellence in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood.

As a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, producer, actor, mentor and consistently excellent performer, Keb’ Mo’ is a true American icon. He handles himself with grace and style as evidenced in this entire collection, from the unique “hot pink” album packaging to the feeling the music inspires while listening to it. For those who never had the experience of enjoying his live show, this is the next best thing. There is a smooth cadence that transports you to a simpler time in life, when a concert audience was respectful and the artist could interact with fans in a positive, engaging way. Without even realizing it, you will find yourself humming along, dancing and laughing as the true “slice of life” vibe shines through and catches you in a spellbound moment of aural euphoria. Because, after all, “Life is Beautiful,” truly.