Forty-some years on, Taj Mahal cakewalks into Aspen | AspenTimes.com
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Forty-some years on, Taj Mahal cakewalks into Aspen

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen Times
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ASPEN The Allman Brothers Band kicked off their annual weeks-long run at New York Citys Beacon Theatre this week, and this years stretch offers a bonus attraction: Its 40 years since the Bros boogied out of Jacksonville, Fla., and the word along Broadway was that numerous unannounced guests would be joining the party. Sure enough, on night one (of 15) the first friend, Taj Mahal, emerged to sing a batch of songs, including Statesboro Blues, which the Allmans and Taj have in common in their repertoire.I cant say for sure why the Allmans chose Taj to lead the guest parade, but heres a good guess: The roots musician nonpareil is also in the middle of celebrating his 40th, a milestone he marked with last years release of Maestro, an album that featured Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley and others. (Alas, no Allmans.)Only one problem here: Taj who is set to perform in his trio on Friday, March 20 at Belly Up Aspen actually started his career several years before 1969. The Rising Sons, a band that featured Taj and a teenaged Ry Cooder, formed in Los Angeles in 1964; with a repertoire heavy on Robert Johnson covers and other pieces of the blues tradition, they were one of the first blues-rock bands in existence.But the band, and its one album recorded in 1966, were buried by its label, Columbia. The world was deemed not ready for a mixed-race group, and the Rising Sons disbanded. (The self-titled album was finally released in 1992.) It wasnt until 1968 that Taj re-appeared on vinyl, with a self-titled album that launched one of the most fundamental careers in American roots music.Taj has since expanded his palette in a multitude of directions, adding calypso, jazz, R&B, and Hawaiian and African sounds to his blues base. The man who seriously considered a career in animal husbandry before the music worked out is a giant of American music. So maybe the Allmans didnt even know he was celebrating his so-called 40th anniversary.

Also following an Allmans guest spot in New York with an appearance in Aspen this week are David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas. The two teamed with the Allmans for several tunes including an encore of the Allmans One Way Out the night after Taj Mahal had his turn.Hidalgo and Rosas come to Aspen with their main act, Los Lobos, on Sunday, March 22 at Belly Up. The bands history is not quite as long as the Allmans or Tajs; they formed relatively recently, around 1973. But the way the group is going, they seem a cinch to hit 40 years. Were not going anywhere, drummer-guitarist Louie Prez said in an interview with The Aspen Times.Actually, of late the Los Angeles rockers have been going somewhere: back to their quasi-roots. Since 2007, Los Lobos has been billing many of their shows (including the upcoming Aspen date) as acoustic. This isnt as simple as unplugging the instruments and sitting on stools. The band, comprising mostly second-generation Mexican-Americans, has been swapping their guitars and amps for instruments like the 12-string bajo sexto, and accordions, and playing the Mexican tunes they learned from their parents records.

Also having made appearances with the Allmans in the early stages of their New York run are Buddy Guy, the Bands Levon Helm, and Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell from Phish. None of whom have local appearances on the books at the moment. But we can cross our fingers.Acts who are coming to town in the week ahead (and who have not jammed with the Allmans in New York … yet): John Oates concluding his Stories Behind the Songs series, with songwriter Jimmy Wayne (Thursday, March 19, Wheeler Opera House); San Francisco jam-band Tea Leaf Green (Thursday, March 19, Belly Up); the mighty Martin Sexton (Saturday, March 21, Belly Up); Sam Bush, playing a free show in the Aspen Skicos Hi-Fi series (Sunday, March 22, Snowmass Base Village).stewart@aspentimes.com


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