A Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Two of the world's most influential blues musicians of the late 20th century graced the stage at the Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown, New York on February 7, 2013. It appears that the pairing of Taj Mahal and John Mayall was a special one off event. Both have extensive catalogues and are actively touring in 2013.

John Mayall and Taj Mahal in Concert at the Tarrytown Music Hall
Legendary band leader John Mayall brought the blues to Tarrytown in February 2013.

Henry St. Claire Fredericks aka Taj Mahal was born into a musical realm. His father was a composer and jazz pianist and his mother was a gospel singer. Taj was exposed to a wide range of instruments and styles through radio, records and the frequency of visitors to the family home. Folks came from around the world and Henry heard the sounds of Africa and the Caribbean along with the Chicago and Delta Blues. In addition to the piano Henry learned how to play the clarinet, harmonica and trombone before gravitating to the guitar.

The cultures and music that Taj absorbed in his formative years found their way into his compositions starting with his self-titled debut released in 1968. Since then his diverse music has melded the melody and moods of the world.

John Mayall discovered his love of music through records and learned how to play a number of instruments (piano, guitar and harmonica) at an early age. John immersed himself in the blues, boogie woogie and more as he perfected his skills as a musician.

He formed John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in the 1960's. The band would be a launch for a number of guitar greats including Eric Clapton, Peter Green, John McVie, Andy Fraser and Mick Taylor who would later join the Rolling Stones.

For years, under the Bluesbreakers moniker John continued to craft quality records and toured regularly. Mayall has maintained a strong following and is well respected by his contemporaries and the many that he has mentored through the years. Currently, John is fronting a four piece and still playing the blues with vibrancy and vigor.

John Mayall and Taj Mahal in Concert at the Tarrytown Music Hall
John Mayall on stage at the Tarrytown Music Hall.

In the lobby at the theater, John was manning his merchandise table and was available to chat with his charming English accent to his fans. Mayall was also signing things for folks, which included LPs that people had brought with them.

The John Mayall Band took the stage around eight and opened with "The Sum of Something" a smoking blues based number. The song showcased one of many sizzling guitar solos from Rocky Athas proving that John still knows how to pick accomplished axe men.

The first song and its solos drew lots of applause and Mayall thanked the crowd for the "wonderful reception". Taking us back to 1964, the quartet played the sad and soulful "Heartache" from John's first record. The track featured intricate interplay and the sound was well mixed allowing each instrument to stand out.

Moving away from the keyboards and picking up a small guitar, John was amused when a fan yelled out "where's the other half?" Mayall explained that "Gimme Me One More Day" was written when he stopped drinking alcohol. John was pulling interesting sounds from his guitar and his exchanges with Rocky were animated.

"Parchman Farm" from the Beano record started with John playing that distinctive harmonica part as fans clapped along. Mayall mixed in some vocalizations into the harp solo before the band came full throttle into the tune. "All My Life" a Jimmie Lee Robinson cover simmered on guitar solos with John on the keys punctuating the sentiments of the song.

"Thank you so much, I wrote this song when I was in the Army in Korea. It's a song about wishing to be home." John dedicated it to all those who are serving in the military. It was a pertinent and potent piece with edgy rhythms accenting aggressive axe work.

John Mayall and Taj Mahal in Concert at the Tarrytown Music Hall
John Mayall and Rocky Athas traded licks and smiles throughout their powerful performance.

They closed with an expansive "Chicago Line." The drum and harp combination at the start gave one the impression of movement as the bass and guitar blended into the mix. Each person stepped up with a solo. Greg Rzab combined bass and guitar textures and tones into his stirring showcase. Jay Davenport was fast as he blend cymbals and drum beats during his solo. As the song came to a close, John played the keys with one hand and held the harp in the other.

"Thank you, good evening everybody," greeted Taj Mahal as he and his talented team came on stage. Taj was sporting a brightly colored shirt and was armed with an acoustic guitar. The trio opened with "Corinna" a colorful blend of island flavors and interesting vocalizations.

Taj gave a wonderful shout out to the John Mayall Band, stating that John was a "dedicated man to the music". Also, during his set, Taj mentioned Dr. John and did a brief imitation of one of his favorite people along with praise for Aretha Franklin. Laughing he said that this has nothing to do with the introduction to the next song which he dedicated to all you equestrians. The piece had rhythm patterns like the plodding of a horse as Taj added twangy guitar effects to the slow and steady groove of the tune.

Taj Mahal's music was a blend of styles and the various acoustic guitars that he played had unique and unusual tunings. Taj has a warm vocal tone and he used a variety of inflections to add to his storytelling. He incorporated many world tones into his songs along with varying shades of the blues. Taj was engaging in his music and interactions with the audience.

John Mayall and Taj Mahal in Concert at the Tarrytown Music Hall
Taj Mahal takes the stage in Tarrytown.

"You're looking good," shouted out a lady and Taj who appeared pleased did a little dance in response as the trio moved into a sweet and sassy song with a Spanish flavor. Set highlights included "Queen Bee" and the zesty "Zanzibar". The trio finished with an energized "Blues is Alright." The up-tempo tune blended the blues and rock and had a catchy hook so that Taj could sing a line and the audience could repeat it back.

The two musical wonders of the world were well received by the attentive crowd. Both bands played winning sets, showing that these masters and mentors still have great passion for the music. The Tarrytown Music Hall will be hosting many more impressive acts for 2013. Please check out their website for a complete list.

The John Mayall Band
John Mayall - Vocals, Guitar, Keys and Harmonica
Rocky Athas - Guitar
Jay Davenport - Drums
Greg Rzab - Bass

The Taj Mahal Trio
Taj Mahal - Vocals, Guitar, Keys, and Banjo
Kester Smith - Drums
Bill Rich - Bass

John Mayall and Taj Mahal in Concert at the Tarrytown Music Hall
The Taj Mahal Trio during their Winter Tour in 2013.

Related Links: For more information on JOHN MAYALL, TAJ MAHAL and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - John Mayall | Taj Mahal | Tarrytown Music Hall

(Originally Published on February 08, 2013)




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