Thursday, February 22, 2024

Taj Mahal

Stony Plain Records announced the release of roots music legend Taj Mahal’s ground-breaking new album Savoy, on April 28. 2023. 
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 Johnny Cash, throughout his career Taj has pushed the envelope of American roots music forward by incorporating sounds from the Caribbean, Africa, traditional blues and jazz. He has won three Grammy Awards from 14 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 a collection of blues-tinged classic material with his good friend and acclaimed record producer John Simon, whose resume includes producing classic albums by The Band, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot and Blood Sweat & Tears.  Recording Savoy is the realization of a musical collaboration they had been discussing for decades, finally locking in the studio time in Oakland, California to make it happen in August, 2022.
In the introduction to the first track “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” 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, [who] 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 schoolteacher 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.”   
Fans of Taj know that he started working with Ry Cooder in the mid-60s LA band, The Rising Sons.  His first two solo Columbia albums, Taj Mahal’ (1967) and The Natch’l Blues (1968), are two of the most influential blues albums of all time.   Never one to be pigeonholed, Taj has recorded more styles of roots music than any other artist.  Those releases include music from the Caribbean, Hawaii, Africa, and India, as well as gospel, rock, early R&B, children’s music, soundtracks, and nearly every kind of acoustic and electric blues.  He brings a musicologist’s quest to each project.  
Taj first met producer John Simon at the New York City Columbia Records Studios in 1968.  John was producing and playing piano on the first Electric Flag album. Taj was already a fan of John’s productions, playing and arrangements, in particular his arrangements for an album featuring Marshall McLuhan, the influential media guru.  At the time, John was a staff producer at Columbia.  Taj invited John to play keyboards on his tours during the ‘70s and he also played on Taj’s landmark The Real Thing (1972) album as part of an adventurous band that included four tuba players.  Taj and John have remained close friends and kept in touch over the years and toured together again in 2006.  Talk eventually turned to their mutual love of classic standards with a blues twist and to doing another album together.  Trading songs, the two came up with a list of 59 possibilities before settling in on the 14 contained in Savoy.  
Savoy was recorded at 25 th Street Recording in Oakland with engineer Gabriel Shepard.   Taj showed up the first day about 1:00 PM and settled in with cups of sweet tea. Backing Taj Mahal vocals and harmonica on Savoy is a rhythm section comprised of Danny Caron – guitar; Ruth Davies – bass; John Simon – piano; and Leon Joyce, Jr. – drums; with background vocals by Carla Holbrook, Leesa Humphrey, Charlotte McKinnon, Sandy Cressman, Sandy Griffith and Leah Tysse. 
On the first day of recording, the band was running down John Simon’s arrangement of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” with encouragement from Taj.  Chick Webb had the first hit with the song in 1934 and Ella later recorded it with Louis Armstrong.   Taj said, “It needs a little more sashay.  You’ll know it when you hear it.”  Co-Executive Producer Holger Petersen who was at the session shares, “and everybody did!  Taj’s scat singing is a highlight.  Except for “Killer Joe, fans would likely have heard all the others at one time or another at the Savoy Ballroom during its long run from 1926 to 1958. This is a Taj album like no other and a deep part of his long history. “

Monday, February 19, 2024

JAM 66 Radio - updates

From Today listen to MARTA MANERA, MERRY SPLEEN, BEHEDOS and KONSTANTIN KIRICH. More new blues / bluesrock bands on the radio every day.

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Kitchener/Waterloo's FOG Blues & Brass Band Put the Swing in 'Here Comes Santa Claus'

Kitchener, Ontario band FOG Blues & Brass Band released a swinging arrangement of ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ to enliven the 2022 holiday season. The latest single from the accomplished 7-piece band rejuvenates the Christmas standard with keys, horns and a spirited vocal by lead singer Hilliard Walter.
Produced by Grammy and Juno Winner John ‘Beetle’ Bailey at Jancar Studios, Cambridge ON, and at The Drive Shed, New Hamburg, ON, the cheerful ode to St. Nick was a natural fit for the group of veteran musicians who are known for their rousing and joyful playing style. Having worked with the FOG Blues & Brass Band on its well-received In the Fog! Record, Bailey suggested the band reinterpret the classic song in their own style.
‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ was written and first performed by Gene Autry in 1947, quickly reaching #5 on the country charts and going on to become even more popular in subsequent years. In FOG Blues & Brass Band’s hands, the song is renewed yet again, buoyed by a swinging four-piece horn arrangement by writer/performer and Emmy-award winner Don Beithaupt (Monkey House, Breithaupt Brothers), guitarist Tim Palser’s melodic slide and the rest of the band’s accomplished playing.
“We had a blast cutting this one in the studio,” the band members recall. “The smiles on all our faces while tracking our first take said it all. All the pieces fit together easily.”  The result is a jovial, freewheeling track, tailor-made for listeners in search of some Christmas cheer. 
Formed in 2015 and based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, Fog Blues & Brass Band is Hilliard Walter (Vocals), Al Hosjak (Bass), Domenic DiNino (Drums), Bobby Becker (Keys), Tim Palsar (Guitar), Dan Jancar (Saxophones), Joe Dublanski (Alto Saxophone), a group of seasoned musicians with a wealth of performing and recording experience. Semifinalists in the Band category at the 2020 International Blues Challenge, they released their debut record Into the Fog! In 2018, which quickly found widespread radio airplay and popular acclaim. With its firm command of classic blues, R&B and rock and roll and deep bench of soloists, the FOG Blues & Brass Band is a riveting live act, performing regularly at venues and festivals throughout Ontario.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Eric Bibb

Stony Plain Records announced a March 24, 2023, release date for Ridin’, the new album from two-time Grammy nominee and Blues/Roots music legend Eric Bibb. The label released the album’s first single, “Family,” on December 8.  Eric Bibb has already scheduled lengthy tours of Europe and Australia in the first quarter of 2023 to support the new album’s release.
The follow-up to his multiple award-winning, critically-acclaimed 2021 album, Dear AmericaRidin’ is a continuation of the vision that informs Bibb’s artistry as a modern-day Blues troubadour. Grounded in the folk and blues tradition with contemporary sensibilities, Bibb’s music continues to reflect his thoughts on current world events and his own lived experiences, whilst remaining entertaining, uplifting, inspirational and relevant.
“As a songwriter, studying African American history has always been a deep well of inspiration. The true stories of my ancestors and their communities are at the heart of many of the songs on my new album - Ridin’. Together with co-writer/producer Glen Scott, we’ve created a concept album focusing on the ongoing task of understanding systemic racism and purging it from our world. For all its seriousness, Ridin’ is a funky, groovy, hopeful collection of songs that feature stellar guest appearances by Taj Mahal, Jontavious Willis, Russell Malone and Habib Koité. At a time when popular political movements are attempting to delete truth from the historical record, I feel called upon to sing songs that contribute to greater understanding and much-needed unity. The making of Ridin’ has been a labor of love. We hope you’ll enjoy the journey.” – Eric Bibb
The ethos for Ridin’ was hugely inspired by the oil painting by Eastman Johnson, “A Ride for Liberty (1862),” that depicts an African American family fleeing enslavement in the southern USA during the American Civil War. In Eric’s own words: “Johnson’s painting embodies all the hope, determination and courage that is at the core of the African American experience and needed now throughout the world.” 
Ridin' was produced by Glen Scott and features Habib Koité, Taj Mahal, Steve Jordan, Tommy Sims, Harrison Kennedy, Russell Malone and Jontavious Willis, as well as a host of brilliant session musicians and singers from around the globe.
A two-time Grammy Award nominee with multiple Blues Foundation awards, Eric Bibb is known and revered globally for having carved his own musical destiny with honesty and power. Eric’s father, the late Leon Bibb, was an activist, actor, and folk singer who marched at Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King. Eric’s youth was spent immersed in the Greenwich Village folk scene. Names like Dylan, Baez, and Seeger were visitors to his home. He was deeply influenced by Odetta, Richie Havens, and Taj Mahal – who guests on Ridin’ - and he has synthesized all of that into his very own style.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Vancouver's Blues Band Mud Bay Releases "Love And Forgiveness" From Latest "Best Laid Plans" Album


Born in 1978, Mud Bay has been entertaining audiences with their spectacular shows—made up of their version of blues and roots music mixed with just about anything. Hailing as "Saturday night entertainment, any day of the week". The talented five-piece features three main vocalists along with four songwriters which open the scope up for a plethora of musical range, diversity, and creativity. The band consists of Mud Bay Slim (Harold Arnold) on harmonica and vocals, Mark Branscombe on guitar and vocals, Randall T Carpenter playing guitar, steel, and vocals, Dennis Ingvaldson pumping the Bass, and Murphy Farrell taking on the rhythm section with Drums and Percussion.
"Love and Forgiveness" has a blues swing and rhythm that wouldn't be far removed from that Van Morrison sound. With Randall T Carpenter taking lead on this track, "Love and Forgiveness" delivers on storytelling with a rhythmic beat offering the listener a heads up on love and lies in life. Randall T Carpenter delivers a plea to past mistakes in love with the hope of getting absolution as he reflects on chaotic relationships.
“People tell me talk is cheap and I found out that it's true
For every promise that we keep, we break more than just a few”
Thanks to musical guests Jerry Cook and Norm Quinn, Mud Bay brings horns into their original version of blues and bop, adding a classic Blues Brothers sound. With the additional dulcet tones of Pete Sweetzir's Hammond underlining the foundation of Mud Bay’s new single.
The stand-out chorus of "Love and Forgiveness" delivers on that prominent Dennis Ingvaldson walking bass line with Randall T Carpenter following on vocals every step of the way.
“Love and forgiveness, true ties that bind
Are so very hard to find, seem to be in short supply
So we see time after time how the heart deceives the mind”
"Love and Forgiveness" is just one of fourteen original tracks off their new album Best Laid Plans recorded at Afterlife Studios, Vancouver, Canada, produced by the band themselves. and Erik Nielsen.