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Album Review

Taj Mahal: Savoy


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Taj Mahal: Savoy
Folk/blues practitioner Taj Mahal's Savoy is to be savored. As one of the custodians of the blues, Mahal has long been a legend in his own time. This collection traverses a cultural-musical continuum in an indispensable residency in the annals of Black American music.

The namesake of this album—the Savoy on Lenox Avenue in Harlem—was known as The World's Finest Ballroom and Home Of Happy Feet. In the pre-Civil Rights era, the North claimed formal equality, but segregation was still openly practiced in public venues, employment and housing. This hypocrisy briefly dissolved in the Savoy with all races free to hit the dance floor. Said Norma Miller, the Queen Of Swing (1919-2019), "The first place in the world that black and white walked through the door together was the Savoy. They were joined by a simple thing called Swing."

There are 14 songs on the album, and here is what to pick up from this capstone: "I'm Just a Lucky So And So," written by Mack David and Duke Ellington. George and Ira Gershwin's "Summertime," the Broadway classic from Porgy and Bess. "Caldonia," a jump blues written and first performed by Louis Jordan. "One For My Baby—and One for the Road" has Mahal recreating the melancholy mood of the tune and lyric. You can check the album out on YouTube below.

Savoy finds Mahal's famously gravel vocals accompanied by lush period-infused jazz orchestration. Producer John Simon, who first began playing keyboards with the Electric Flag, pulls it off nicely in Mahal's former home base in Oakland at the 25th Street Recording studio.

Taj Mahal is 80 years young, and like many seasoned musicians, collaboration is a hallmark of his practice. He has worked with Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Ry Cooder, Wynton Marsalis, Eric Clapton, Gregg Allman, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and pop songster Cyndi Lauper: Memphis Blues Tour. In 2017 he collaborated on an album with fellow blues caretaker Keb' Mo.

In Savoy Taj Mahal's take on these endangered classics of the swing era shines and lovingly pulsates. It is like sitting down for a comforting, family-style meal. The music is truly mellow and soulful, and like the song says, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!"

Track Listing

Stompin' At The Savoy; I'm Just A Lucky So-And-So; Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You; Summertime; 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; Caldonia; Killer Joe; One For My Baby (And One More For The Road).


Taj Mahal: guitar and vocals; Maria Muldaur: voice / vocals; Erik Jekabson: trumpet; Mike Rinta: trombone; Sheldon Brown: saxophone; Leah Tysse: voice / vocals; Sandy Griffith: voice / vocals; Sandy Cressman: voice / vocals; Charlotte McKinnon: voice / vocals; Leesa Humphrey: voice / vocals; Carla Holbrook: voice / vocals; Leon Joyce, Jr.: drums; Ruth Davies: bass, acoustic; Danny Caron: guitar; Lincoln Adler: saxophone; Kristen Strom: saxophone, alto; Charles McNeal: saxophone, alto; Evan Zeppo Price: violin.

Additional Instrumentation

John Simon: piano.

Album information

Title: Savoy | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Stony Plain Records

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