To mark the 40th year of his recording history Taj Mahal releases the self-depricatingly titled Maestro.
Fittingly he’s picked up musicians from his past to join him on the album, but instead of blues legends (the ones that are still standing anyway) making up the numbers, he has chosen a host of fresher names for the mostpart, including Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, and Toumani Diabate, as well as Ang?©lique Kidjo and Ziggy Marley.
A towering legend of R’n’B, Mahal overshadows many of the guest artists, and neither Harper nor Johnson, or Marley infect the songs on which they guest with their signature styles.
But one thing Mahal and his Phantom Blues Band have in spades is groove, and from Stax-style ‘Scratch My back’ to New Orleans jazz march ‘Slow Drag’ to ‘Zanzibar’ featuring both Ang?©lique Kidjo and Toumani Diabate (with whom he collaborated on Kulanjan), to old time blues ‘TV Mama’, on which he’s joined by Los Lobos, the deep groove is what keeps this album going.
Switching consciously between different styles effortlessly and keeping the groove as strong as Mahal does is musical showboating but when he does it so well who can blame him, and all of a sudden the title Maestro doesn’t seem such an overstatement.
Maestro is released on Heads Up records.