Taj Mahal (with Toumani Diabaté): Zanzibar
Taj Mahal (guitar, vocals)
Maestro (Heads Up 3164)
Bill Rich (bass), Kester Smith (drums, percussion), Bassekou Koyate (ngoni), Debra Dobkin (percussion).
Composed by Taj Mahal and Angelique Kidjo.
Recorded: Los Angeles, no date given (CD released in 2008)
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
Although blues music has deep African roots, the combination of these two traditions in the recording studio typically presents a stark contrast in musical styles. Here blues Maestro (also the name of this CD) Taj Mahal is joined by Beninese vocalist Angélique Kidjo and Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté, The results take us into unpredictable world music waters where few blues artists dare to swim. The rhythm, which is broken down into two bars of three beats followed by a bar of two beats, is hypnotic, and the intersecting vocal lines are quite effective. You will hear few flatted thirds on this track, and the performance is a departure from what you might expect from Taj Mahal. Those seeking more familiar blues fare will find it elsewhere on the Maestro CD, but this performance is a standout effort.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia