Homer Alaska - Arts

Story last updated at 1:52 PM on Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Taj Mahal Trio plays Sunday

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

Fronted by legendary blues and roots musician Taj Mahal, the Taj Mahal Trio performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Mariner Theatre. With Kester Smith and Bill Rich, Taj Mahal should bring a live show that rivals recent Homer performances like Bela Fleck or Acoustic Africa, said Downward Dog promoter Mike Hayes.

"I've been online looking at some of his YouTube stuff," Hayes said. "It won't disappoint you. We're excited about it."

Born Henry St. Claire Fredericks, Taj Mahal took his stage name after he was inspired in a dream. He first started performing with the Elektras in 1961. In 1964 he moved to Los Angeles and formed the band The Rising Sons, which included Ry Cooder. Taj Mahal released his first album, "Taj Mahal," in 1968, and has gone on to release almost an album a year ever since. One of the most influential figures in late 20th century blues and roots music, he has broadened his artistic scope over the years to include music from west Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, the Hawaiian islands and more.

Homer audiences might recognize Taj Mahal as the narrator of "Soul Resonance," Doug and Laurel Epps' documentary about the spread of Zimbabwean African music beyond Africa and to North America. Dumisane Maraire, the Zimbabwean musician who helped bring the music to the Pacific Northwest, toured with Taj Mahal. That collaboration is one of many he formed with other African and world musicians.

"I didn't want to fall into the trap of complacency. I wanted to keep pushing the musical ideas I had about jazz, music from Africa and the Caribbean. I wanted to explore the connections between different kinds of music," Taj Mahal said on his website.

Hayes said Taj Mahal has been one of the most requested musicians he's been asked to bring to Homer. When he had a chance to bring him to Homer on an Alaska tour, Hayes said he checked with music lovers on his email list to see if they'd balk at seeing Taj Mahal at high ticket prices.

"They didn't think twice," Hayes said. "The music people who have seen him three or four times down south just loved his live show."

Tickets are $46 and available at the Homer Bookstore or at www.inticketing.com. For more information on his music, including samples, visit www.tajblues.com. The Taj Mahal Trio also plays May 1 at the Atwood Concert Hall in Anchorage, May 3 at the Blue Loon in Fairbanks and May 4 at Centennial Hall in Juneau.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael. armstrong@homernews.com.