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Taj Mahal|Savoy

Savoy

Taj Mahal

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Taj Mahal has released many kinds of albums in a six-decade career: folk, jump, country, blues of all stripes, sounds from Africa, the Caribbean, R&B, soul, collaborations with musicians from across the globe, and even children's records. Savoy moves in another direction still. Recorded in collaboration with producer, pianist, and longtime friend John Simon, this set offers blues-kissed reads of 14 tunes from the Great American Songbook. The album is titled as an homage to the iconic Harlem ballroom at 596 Lenox Ave. Mahal's parents met there in 1938 seeing Ella Fitzgerald front the Chick Webb Orchestra. Simon and Mahal discussed the project for decades, but August 2022 was when the planets aligned. They cut the set live with a core band and guests. Mahal's band includes guitarist Danny Caron, bassist Ruth Davies, Simon on piano, drummer Leon Joyce, Jr., and a vocal chorus with Carla Holbrook, Leesa Humphrey, and Charlotte McKinnon. Interestingly, Caron and Davies served in Charles Brown's band, and Joyce drummed with Ramsey Lewis for many years. "Stompin' at the Savoy" starts with spoken word; Mahal delivers a reenactment of his parents' meeting. As he commences singing and scatting the lyrics, backing singers underscore with oohs, aahs, and call-and-response. "I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So" is one of three Duke Ellington numbers here. The languid horn section plays a blues progression with added warmth and grace from Kristen Strom's swinging flute. The arrangement of George Gershwin's "Summertime" is delivered allegretto, with blue, finger-popping swing from lush horns. "Mood Indigo" benefits from co-producer Manny Moreira's accumulated years of big band and Broadway experience. His layered brass colorations add dimension. "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me" offers languid, late-night horns (except in the bridge when they deliberately evoke gospel), and Simon's tasteful comping adds drama. The fluid blues guitar break from Caron benefits with elegance and bite. "Sweet Georgia Brown" is meaty and sprightly as Mahal's grainy singing and scatting contrasts beautifully with Evan Price's "Parisian hot jazz" violin. Maria Muldaur -- one of the great interpreters of vintage blues, jazz, R&B, and country -- joins Mahal on the fun, sultry "Baby It's Cold Outside," with excellent violin, trombone, and piano solos. "Caldonia," Louis Jordan's striding jump boogie, offers pumping piano, swinging guitar, and smoking sax and trombone solos behind Mahal's good-time vocal. His harmonica joins Strom's tenor sax to elevate in Benny Golson's dynamic "Killer Joe," before "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)" closes the set. Mahal references several classic versions and arrangements in shifting tempos, but he ultimately only sounds like himself. Savoy embodies the abundant joy of its predecessor, Get On Board: The Songs of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, but the album offers added nuance, color, dynamics, and musical sophistication. It seemingly accomplishes the impossible by taking these (overly) familiar standards and breathing new life into them while simultaneously honoring their legacies as well as that of the historic Harlem ballroom.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo

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Savoy

Taj Mahal

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1
Stompin' At The Savoy
Taj Mahal
00:03:43

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - Goodman/Razaf/Sampson/Webb, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

2
I'm Just A Lucky So-And-So
Taj Mahal
00:03:23

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - David, Ellington, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

3
Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You
Taj Mahal
00:03:51

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - Razaf/Redman, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

4
Summer Time
Taj Mahal
00:02:48

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - Gershwin/Heyward/Heyward, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

5
Mood Indigo
Taj Mahal
00:04:09

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - Ellington/Mills/Bigard, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

6
Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby
Taj Mahal
00:04:36

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - Louis Jordan, Composer - Billy Austin, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

7
Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me
Taj Mahal
00:05:05

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - Ellington/Russell, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

8
Sweet Georgia Brown
Taj Mahal
00:03:18

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - Bernie/Casy/Pinkard, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

9
Baby It's Cold Outside
Taj Mahal/Maria Muldaur
00:04:31

Loesser, Composer - Taj Mahal/Maria Muldaur, MainArtist

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

10
Lady Be Good
Taj Mahal
00:03:52

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - Gershwin/gershwin, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

11
Baby Won't You Please Come Home
Taj Mahal
00:03:25

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - Warfield/Williams, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

12
Caldonia
Taj Mahal
00:03:32

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - Fleecie Moore Jordan, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

13
Killer Joe
Taj Mahal
00:04:09

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - Hendricks, Composer - Golson, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

14
One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)
Taj Mahal
00:08:08

Taj Mahal, MainArtist - Arlen/Mercer, Composer

2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records. 2023 Cheraw S.C. LLC under exclusive license to Linus Entertainment Inc. Marketed by Stony Plain Records.

Album review

Taj Mahal has released many kinds of albums in a six-decade career: folk, jump, country, blues of all stripes, sounds from Africa, the Caribbean, R&B, soul, collaborations with musicians from across the globe, and even children's records. Savoy moves in another direction still. Recorded in collaboration with producer, pianist, and longtime friend John Simon, this set offers blues-kissed reads of 14 tunes from the Great American Songbook. The album is titled as an homage to the iconic Harlem ballroom at 596 Lenox Ave. Mahal's parents met there in 1938 seeing Ella Fitzgerald front the Chick Webb Orchestra. Simon and Mahal discussed the project for decades, but August 2022 was when the planets aligned. They cut the set live with a core band and guests. Mahal's band includes guitarist Danny Caron, bassist Ruth Davies, Simon on piano, drummer Leon Joyce, Jr., and a vocal chorus with Carla Holbrook, Leesa Humphrey, and Charlotte McKinnon. Interestingly, Caron and Davies served in Charles Brown's band, and Joyce drummed with Ramsey Lewis for many years. "Stompin' at the Savoy" starts with spoken word; Mahal delivers a reenactment of his parents' meeting. As he commences singing and scatting the lyrics, backing singers underscore with oohs, aahs, and call-and-response. "I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So" is one of three Duke Ellington numbers here. The languid horn section plays a blues progression with added warmth and grace from Kristen Strom's swinging flute. The arrangement of George Gershwin's "Summertime" is delivered allegretto, with blue, finger-popping swing from lush horns. "Mood Indigo" benefits from co-producer Manny Moreira's accumulated years of big band and Broadway experience. His layered brass colorations add dimension. "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me" offers languid, late-night horns (except in the bridge when they deliberately evoke gospel), and Simon's tasteful comping adds drama. The fluid blues guitar break from Caron benefits with elegance and bite. "Sweet Georgia Brown" is meaty and sprightly as Mahal's grainy singing and scatting contrasts beautifully with Evan Price's "Parisian hot jazz" violin. Maria Muldaur -- one of the great interpreters of vintage blues, jazz, R&B, and country -- joins Mahal on the fun, sultry "Baby It's Cold Outside," with excellent violin, trombone, and piano solos. "Caldonia," Louis Jordan's striding jump boogie, offers pumping piano, swinging guitar, and smoking sax and trombone solos behind Mahal's good-time vocal. His harmonica joins Strom's tenor sax to elevate in Benny Golson's dynamic "Killer Joe," before "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)" closes the set. Mahal references several classic versions and arrangements in shifting tempos, but he ultimately only sounds like himself. Savoy embodies the abundant joy of its predecessor, Get On Board: The Songs of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, but the album offers added nuance, color, dynamics, and musical sophistication. It seemingly accomplishes the impossible by taking these (overly) familiar standards and breathing new life into them while simultaneously honoring their legacies as well as that of the historic Harlem ballroom.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo

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