Can we talk about Taj Mahal and his playing?

Discussion in 'Music to Your Ears' started by Boxla, Oct 15, 2019.

  1. Boxla

    Boxla Tele-Meister

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    I've seen Taj play 5 times, one of which was at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, where I sat about 8' from him all night.

    There are several things that impress me about Taj but when it comes to his electric guitar it's always his tone and his playing.

    I know he typically plays an Ephiphone hollow body but gets the most unique tone from it. Is it a chorus pedal that gives him his unique tone?

    With his playing, he never ceases to amaze me. The way he be bops around that fretboard and plays intricate stuff while singing is again just very unique to me. He has big hands that seem to be in total control of everything. I've always imagined he could grab a guitar with 20 year old string 1/2" off the fretboard and be strong enough to fingerpick anything he liked.

    I'm curious if all believe him to be an incredible player or is what he playing also played by hundreds/thousands of other, blues/bayou/whatever is it he plays, pickers? I'm now knowledgeable enough to know that.

    Have you seen him live? If so in what band incarnation? Unfortunately, I never saw him with the International Rhythm band but I did see him once with the hula blues band. I've never heard him play the reggae (even though Mo Roots is my favorite) but in his book he talks about housing Bob and the band when they were in San Fran once. His dates don't jive with the history books but nonetheless, it's cool they hooked up.

    Of course then, you have that voice!
     
  2. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    I'm a big fan. I saw him a half dozen times, in the '70s and '80s. I mostly remember him with a big white semi-hollowbody electric. He grew up in the Springfield, MA area and went to Stockbridge, before it became UMass. When he lived in Kauai, I lived there, in the same town. His real name is Henry! We would see him whizzing by on his bicycle now and then. He's a big fella, he must be six-five or so and all muscle. Great singer, great picker.
     
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  3. Geo

    Geo Friend of Leo's

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    I saw Taj and band in '68 at the Newport Folk and Blues Festival. It was really big for me.
    I think his first "solo" LP was out then. Live was Taj or course with Jesse Ed Davis, Gary Gilmore
    and Charles "Brother" Blackwell.
    One thing I remember well was when they started their first tune, "Dust My Broom" it was just
    the band for a round then Taj came out dancing with a broom sweeping the stage. When Ed
    took a solo Taj went back sweeping the stage with the broom. It was real fun theatrics and great
    music.
     
  4. kingofdogs1950

    kingofdogs1950 Tele-Holic

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    I've always liked Taj but haven't seen him live since the early 70s.
    I recall that Ry Cooder played in his early band.
    Taj makes good music.

    Mark
     
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  5. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Taj fan here too. He plays my kinda stuff. Last year he was gigging with my favorite current player, Keb Mo and they have got great chemistry together. I think Taj has changed his style over the decades and is more relaxed with his playing now.
     
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  6. ping-ping-clicka

    ping-ping-clicka Tele-Meister

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    He sings and plays well, when I saw him decades ago, he was playing a George Benson signature model.
    A large part of the audience was women and I must admit he was greatly appreciated . Natural charm and charisma put a spell on much of the room. A good time was had by all.
     
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  7. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    He's a great player. He's a great entertainer.

    And yet, I've see him busk on the street, in New Orleans. In New Orleans, between shows, why not? :^)
     
  8. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    Big fan. Seen him live a couple times. He's different for sure. Years ago I didn't get it. One thing I realized recently for myself is playing with your fingers instead of a pick makes a huge difference in tone and related things to tone.

    Recently, in the Duo with looper thing I do, I was soloing a longish improvisational solo. I tried just using my fingers, and I had a chorus on really full effect. At one point on the low notes it sounded like a fretless bass... Jaco style! I had no idea it would do that. Also, slide playing etc finger picking is very different.
    I wish I had the courage to pursue finger picking live more in the band. I feel clumsy though, but I think I'm able to get out more what my head is hearing than with a plectrum.

    Taj is a perfect example of how "feeling and nuance" make a huge difference in style as opposed to playing a ton of notes. With his singing too.
     
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  9. rickthescot

    rickthescot Tele-Holic

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    One of my favorites
     
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  10. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    I saw him in the early '70s, he was spellbinding. It was in Seattle at the Paramount Northwest theater, back when it was a 'rock palace'; great house for an intimate show like his (he was basically on stage alone). I remember him playing a resonator git of some kind.

    The opening act was the then-unknown Pointer Sisters, all four of them in old-fashioned floral print dresses, singing 1940s torch songs in four-part harmony a capella. They blew everyone's socks off, the crowd just fell in love with them. The next I heard of them, they were on TV doing disco music videos. Oh well!
     
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  11. bayside

    bayside Tele-Meister

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    Here's my Taj story. Skate boarding with a friend in old town Scottsdale 1964? Come around a corner and theirs Taj playing at a Hanney's shirt shop with his band the Rising Suns. Who's in the group but Ry Cooder and Jessie Lee Kincaid.
     
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  12. Boxla

    Boxla Tele-Meister

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    If I'm not mistaken when one of the Bush (George jr) girls got married, their wedding song was Take a Giant Step. What an incredible song.
     
  13. L.A. Mike

    L.A. Mike Tele-Afflicted

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    I used to see Taj at The Troubadour in L.A. back in the late 60s/early 70s. I was able to watch him up close lots of times. And I spoke with him a few times. He watched me do a song on a Monday Hoot Night that I wrote, sang and played acoustic guitar on. Later on I asked him what he thought and he said "good job on the Travis Picking style of finger picking". Then asked me if I was familiar with Elizabeth Cotton and "cotton picking" or the "Piedmont" style of finger picking. He told me about some stuff I should check out, figure out and incorporate into my playing. Like he had done. I came to realize he was very intelligent and actually a music scholar. He knew about fife band music, Civil war music, the origins of Ska, Slack Key playing, African gourd instruments, and on and on. I felt like a beginner at that point. I realized I'd only scratched the surface of this thing called music and this instrument called a guitar. He inspired me to learn more and never stop.
    Maybe someday I'll run into him again and can thank him properly.



     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
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  14. stevemc

    stevemc Tele-Holic

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    fishin' blues is an all time favorite.long live taj!
     
  15. Crashbelt

    Crashbelt Tele-Meister

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    Saw him in London in the 80s. Brilliant gig and he played mèàn piano too.
     
  16. fasteddie42

    fasteddie42 Tele-Holic

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    Taj is my spirit animal.

    I'm a huge fan of everything EXCEPT that phase of his where it's that strange thin amplified acoustic drenched in chours and or phaser.
     
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  17. Mechanic

    Mechanic Friend of Leo's

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    Always loved hearing him. Never had the chance to see him. But I’ll always turn it up when he’s on.
     
  18. SnidelyWhiplash

    SnidelyWhiplash Friend of Leo's

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    I love the story that he didn't fit in the '60's folk boom because
    he was a college graduate & the powers that be felt that that fact
    didn't jibe... :cool:

    He is one of the greats.
     
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