Album Remarks & Appraisals:
A two-time Grammy winner and one of the most influential American Blues and Roots artists of the past half-century is back with his first new record in five years. This twelve-track set marks the 40th anniversary of Taj Mahal's rich and varied recording career. But Maestro is more than just a tribute to past glories. With guest artists that include Ben Harper, Jack Johnson and Ziggy Marley, it captures the intensity and depth that has characterized every one of his recordings since his self-titled debut album in 1968.
Entertainment Weekly (p.77) - "Taj Mahal continues to resist the constraints of genre. And so the reggae rhythms of 'Never Let You Go' are provided by ukulele, trombone, and Latin workhorses Los Lobos..." -- Grade: B+
Down Beat (p.86) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "For this 40th anniversary oeuvre, Taj Mahal marshals cues from the furthest reaches of blues-based music to create a retrospective of the influences that have informed four decades of experimentation and innovation."
Dirty Linen (pp.42-43) - "'Strong Man Holler,' with no guests and simple accompaniment, is classic Taj Mahal at his best: a bit of a low growl Howlin' Wolf delivery on a song that only sounds like it's been around for 75 years."
Living Blues (p.38) - "Mahal's move to Heads Up for the appropriately titled MAESTRO finds the veteran artist in top musical condition, full of vitality and as eager to get the listener moving and shaking as he is during his live shows."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.116) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[W]hen Ben Harper turns his guitar up, things get interesting, the New Orleans Social Club's two offerings are a blast, and Los Lobos are heard to better effect on 'TV Mama'..."
Personnel: Taj Mahal (vocals, guitar, banjo, ukulele, harmonica); Angélique Kidjo, Ziggy Marley (vocals); Takeshi Akimoto, Jason Mozersky, David Hidalgo, Johnny Lee Schell, Cesar Rosas, Leo Nocentelli (guitar); Louie Pérez (jarana); Toumani Diabaté (kora); Billy Branch (harmonica); Rudy Costa (alto saxophone); Steve Berlin (tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, organ); Joe Sublett (tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone); Darrell Leonard (trumpet); Michael Hyde, Jason Yates, Mick Weaver (keyboards); Michael Jerome, Kester Smith (drums, percussion); Tony Braunagel, Cougar Estrada, Carlton "Santa" Davis (drums); Debra Dobkin (percussion); Deva Mahal, Pebbles Phillips, Tracy Hazzard, C.C. White (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Joe McGrath.
Recording information: Capitol studios, Los Angeles, CA; Sonikwire Studios, Irvine, CA; The Mango Tree; The Shed, New Orleans, LA; Ultratone, Los Angeles, CA; Westlake Audio, Hollywood, CA.
Photographers: Baron Wolman; Jay Blakesberg; Michael Crook.
American original Taj Mahal has been redefining the blues while maintaining an unassailably authentic sound since the 1960s, and on his 2008 album, MAESTRO, his powers show no sign of diminishment. From the flashy funk of "Dust You Down" to the reggae grooves of "Brown Man, Black Man," and the New Orleans second-line rhythm of "Hello Josephine," he often ventures beyond the traditional blues but it's still there in everything he does, like a sonic fingeprint that can't be altered.