How often do you go to a concert where the opening acts are so outstanding, they receive standing ovations? Friday night at the Holland Center in Omaha, that is exactly what happened.
"World Blues" featuring The Taj Mahal Trio with Vusi Mahlasela and Fredericks Brown was this phenomenal show.
Fredericks Brown is the name for a female duo comprising of Taj Mahal's daughter, Deva Mahal and Stephanie Brown. Stephanie plays the keyboards and sings harmony while Deva sings the lead with a voice that is a combination of Mama Cass, Etta James, with a little Ella Fitzgerald. This duo is definitely uplifting and soulful. When Deva sang "I Can't Make You Love Me", the audience was spellbound with her unusual vocal texture. Stephanie provides all the accompaniment and background and instinctively knows to best harmonize Deva's voice. For anyone who enjoys good music, these two ladies have a unique sound that is both reminiscent and refreshing.
Vusi Malasela is a performer that everyone needs to see in person sometime. His energy surges through his music with his guitar actually being an extension of his voice in harmony. Whether he is singing, dancing, playing guitar, he continues to deliver his message for a better world. Being that he has actually lived through Apartheid in South Africa and met with both Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, his perspective is unquestioning uplifting. Some of the quoted verses in his songs and stories were "Wisdom is forgiveness”, “When you don't forgive, you are punishing yourself”, “Wear forgiveness like a crown." Vusi loves expressing himself with music. Whether his legs are moving, or his hands, he literally allows the music to speak in many languages using him as an instrument.
The Taj Mahal trio made their stage entrance after the intermission with Taj Mahal singing and playing guitar. He has been recording since 1967 and is a delight to watch whether he is singing, trembling, shaking, strutting, all of this makes his music expressive and fun to watch as well as hear. Taj has been nominated for nine Grammy Awards and has won two of these as well as being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2009. He is unquestionably a "showman" in every possible way. For over forty years, Biily Rich, whose hometown is Omaha, has been with Taj Mahal playing the bass guitar. Kester Smith plays drums and has been a part of the trio for over twenty years.
For those who were not able to attend, you can still hear some of this music from their CDs. Taj Mahal recently released a 15-CD deluxe box set covering his long blues history. Vusi Mahlasela has "The Voice" which is a CD with songs from South Africa and also "Say Africa" which was produced by Taj Mahal. Fredericks Brown also have their CDs available with their most recent "Glass House Mountains".