Album Review: Taj Mahal, ‘Savoy’

This is the album Taj Mahal was meant to make.

As he says in the introductory words to his rendition of “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” the opening track, his mama met his daddy there in the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, the home of happy feet. He tells us he grew up there listening to all this cool and hip music, and he’s so happy to “throw a thunderbolt down” our way on this album filled with his take on American jazz and popular standards.

The title track sashays and swings with an infectious charm, as background vocalists Carla Holbrook, Leesa Humphrey, and Charlotte McKinnon float ethereally above Taj Mahal’s earthy vocals, which feature his scat singing. Co-producer John Simon guides the languorous “I’m Just an Old So and So” with his smooth piano notes, especially the trills at the song’s end, and Kristen Strom’s soaring flute solo carries the song to another level.

Danny Caron’s smooth, crystalline lead licks and Lincoln Adler’s blaring tenor sax solo propel his scampering version of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” while Mike Rinta’s muted trombone solo kicks off an east St. Louis jump blues interpretation of Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” Evan Price’s scampering violin sets the tone for Taj Mahal’s hoppin’ and swingin’ rendition of “Sweet Georgia Brown. Maria Muldaur joins Taj Mahal for a sultry take on the classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” while Taj Mahal’s sizzling harp plays call and response with Strom’s tenor sax and background vocalists Holbrook, Humphrey, and McKinnon spiraling doo-wop choruses propel
“Killer Joe.”

Savoy showcases Taj Mahal’s musical range and versatility, and his interpretations of these songs bring smiles to our faces, warm our hearts, and make our feet happy.


Savoy is available HERE.


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