Taj Mo: The Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’ Band, Jontavious Willis, Dante Ross

August 13, 2017 | 4:00 pm | Rumsey Playfield | New York, NY | All Ages | FREE!  
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Collaboration between two generations of blues giants, merging masterful talents, rich vocals and guitar styles to create an historic night of music

Taj Majal

One of the defining characters in the American blues movement, Henry Saint Clair Fredericks has been contributing to, and shaping, the art form for over fifty years. His stage name is Taj Mahal, a testament to his stylistically worldly opulence. Growing up in a musical family, Taj was exposed to a variety of genres early on, from gospel to Afro-Caribbean to West Indian jazz. He quickly picked up the guitar, piano, banjo, clarinet, trombone and harmonica. Taj began his professional career in 1964 when he moved to Santa Monica and formed the blues rock band Rising Sons (one of the first interracial groups). Throughout this period, he worked with blues stars Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Muddy Waters. His first solo release, 1968’s Taj Mahal, was met with success, and in the following year, he recorded The Natch’l Blues and Giant Step/De Old Folks at Home. Blowing up the blues scene, he was tapped by The Rolling Stones to play with them in a variety of capacities. Over the next decade, Taj would release a total of twelve albums with Columbia Records, as he incorporated more and more Caribbean and reggae into his sound. He would then record several albums with Warner Bros., move to Hawaii and create the Hula Blues Band. In the 90’s and beyond, he would expand his style repertoire even further, collaborating with Eric Clapton, Etta James, David Forman, Cyndi Lauper, Willie Nile, Joan Osborne, Rob Hyman, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, and the Chieftains.

Keb’ Mo’

Keb’ Mo’ has been playing the guitar since he was a little blues-filled tyke. Kevin Roosevelt Moore, his given name, has been instrumental in spreading blues across the country over the course of his still-thriving, many decade-spanning career. While already an accomplished guitarist as an adolescent, his first professional experience came playing steel drums and upright bass in a calypso band. He branched out to play with numerous blues heavy bands all through the 70’s and 80’s. Moore linked up with Jefferson Airplane violinist Papa John Creach, and the two collaborated on many hit songs. His first solo release was entitled Rainmaker, which hit record stores in 1980. Mo’ would be cast as the ‘Guitar Man’ in the hit 90’s musical Spunk, and this character would provide the basis for his existing stage persona. His 1994 self-titled album would spur on his growing celebrity, and Keb’ Mo’ would release thirteen more cherished, full length blues albums over the years, picking up three Grammy’s along the way. He has shared the stage and collaborated with artists of many genres, including Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Laval Belle, Reggie McBride, Joellen Friedkin, Dr. John, Peter Maffay, Sonny Landreth, Reggie McBride, Les Falconer III, Jeff Paris, Clayton Gibb, Stefan Grossman, Vince Gill, Albert Lee, James Burton, Earl Klugh, Sheryl Crow, Martin Scorsese and Kermit the Frog. A career highlight was performing for the Obamas at a White House event titled “In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues.”

Here, Keb’ plays alongside legend Taj Mahal in a fusion band called TajMo, in what is sure to be an unforgettable night of pure blues.

Jontavious Willis

Every generation or so a young bluesman bursts onto the scene. Someone who sends a jolt through blues lovers. Someone who has mastered the craft for sure, but who also has the blues deep down in his heart and soul. The sincerely passionate Jontavious Willis may be the one. Hailing from Greenville, Georgia, Jontavious grew up singing gospel music at the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church with his grandfather. At the age of 14, he came across a YouTube video of Muddy Waters playing “Hoochie Coochie Man” and was hooked. That’s when he set his course on all types of the blues: Delta, Piedmont, Texas, gospel — as a fingerpicker, flat-picker and slide player — on guitar, harmonica, banjo and cigar box. “That’s my Wonderboy, the Wunderkind,” Taj Mahal said after inviting Jontavious to play on stage in 2015. “He’s a great new voice of the twenty-first century in the acoustic blues. I just love the way he plays.” Legend Paul Oscher said of the 20-year-old Willis: ”When I heard him play I said to myself: this is how the blues, as I know it, is going to stay alive.” In Living Blues Magazine, Frank Matheis wrote: “Only a few like him emerge every decade or so, when even the most hard core blues fans realize immediately that this is the real deal.”

Dante Ross

Dante Ross is a whiz in the music biz, as an industry executive, A&R rep, producer, and a phenom DJ. Named one of the top-25 greatest A&R representatives in hip hop by Complex magazine, Ross started his A&R career at Tommy Boy records, where he signed and handled artists like De La Soul, Queen Latifah, and Digital Underground. Ross was then hired by Elektra Records, the first person ever employed by a major label specifically for hip hop A & R. Here he signed acts Brand Nubian, Grand Puba, Pete Rock & C.L Smooth, KMD, Leaders of the New School, Busta Rhymes and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. He is currently a SVP of A&R ADA Music, the independent distribution company owned by the Warner Music Group. Ross was born in San Francisco and soon moved to New York City in 1967. He grew up in the Lower East Side, skateboarding, writing graffiti and going to see punk rock shows with teenage friends who would become members of The Beastie Boys, The Cro-Mags and Luscious Jackson. Ross frequently went to see live music at CBGB’s. This eclectic musical sampling shaped his diverse tastes, ultimately broadening his producing palate. Ross won a Grammy in 1998 for his work on Carlos Santana’s Supernatural. Ross’ production work has also appeared on Eminem’s famous 8 Mile soundtrack. He has been enlisted for his remixing skills as well, which have been featured on songs in multi-genres like Nu metal, Dancehall and Neo-Soul. He brings all these varied talents to the decks as a rousing DJ.

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