TELLURIDE – Saucy and tantalizing, spectacular and sumptuous, the Telluride Festival of the Arts is a celebration of the culinary and fine arts, and this year the annual Mountain Village event is enhanced by the addition of one of the tastiest treats ever, with the Taj Mahal Trio set to perform Friday afternoon.
As his website notes, there really is no single word which can define the legendary Taj Mahal, as the multiple Grammy Award-winning musician has joyfully blended his kaleidoscopic concoction of Caribbean, West African, jazz, reggae, and bluesy-country rock for more than four decades.
However, there is one moniker that aptly describes the majestic Taj Mahal: Maestro. And appropriately, that’s the title of his forthcoming CD. Its release next month will commemorate the 40th anniversary of Taj’s prolific recording career.
The master musician and multi-instrumentalist indeed defies definition, as Taj may well be the most diversified musician on the planet. He seamlessly blurs genres, flowing from the smoothest R&B to the grittiest, cooking grooves.
As Taj says, that’s just the way he likes it. “I didn't want to fall into the trap of complacency. I want to keep pushing the musical ideas I have about jazz, music from Africa and the Caribbean,” he says. “I want to explore the connections between different kinds of music.”
Taj is out on the road with two of his long-time buddies and collaborators, the incredible Bill Rich on bass and Kester Smith who kicks it down on drums. With Taj on guitar, piano and banjo, there’s plenty of room to move and groove in the trio format. “That leaves a lot of space to be filled. The guitar is not submerged, but right up front in the music. It's a challenging place to play,” he says.
While the trio may venture into new territory, somehow Taj always brings it back to the blues. “The blues is a tone that puts me in contact with a lot of things, culturally, spiritually, cosmically. I really enjoy it, and I'm not going to let it go, because it's that good.”
That good indeed, Taj is the real thing, so cancel all of your prior engagements and take a giant step – or the gondola – to Mountain Village for the marvelous Taj Mahal Trio this evening. The free show starts at 6 p.m. What could be finer?
Well, it’ll be hard to top it, but you can continue the fun by taking a short jaunt to Rico, where The Turkey Creek Ramblers will be ripping it up at the Rico Theatre. The local pickers have been on a roll, and should be on fire for this show tonight at 8 p.m.
In downtown Telluride, local venues will also be hopping on Friday night, including at the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, where it’s Back of the Bus, with their funky infusion of rockin’ reggae, hip-hop, world, hardcore, and pop. Headed up by Sean DeLand, Back of the Bus features a moveable feast of talented players, including several members of the band Fractalized. The local guys will groove you, tonight at the Moon.
Saturday night at the downtown club, dress in your favorite Freebox costume for Wylder Wilson’s Freebox Fundraiser, and Sunday night at the Moon, it’s the highly anticipated debut of Loveshow. Sasha Cucciniello and Tom Shane collaborated on the extravaganza, which will feature live music from Ethan Hale, Eren Borg and Bubba Lee Schill. For adults only, Loveshow plays through Wednesday at the Moon.
Coming up next week, it’s live hip-hop at the Moon featuring Apoc and Rel with their album release party for The Night of the Day.
At The Bubble Lounge tonight, The Jeff Solon Jazz Group returns to Telluride for a night of funky, jazzy grooves. Solon wowed audiences at the Jazz Celebration in June, and the Durango-based jazzman surrounds himself with heavy-hitting players in his constantly evolving projects.
Saturday night at the Bubble Lounge, prepare to rock, as the full in-your-face Fractalized crew is rolling in for a rager. The band has recorded their debut studio release Sons of the Addicted, and the long-awaited CD is due to be released in the near future.
By the way, Fractalized broke in Ridgway’s Switchback Café last weekend, and will return to that new, hot venue next week.
Tonight at the Switchback Café, look for Hillbilly Hotel to tear it up, as the Hillbilly crew is on the move, with their eyes on a pile of gigs during Telluride’s Blues and Brews Festival next month.
“We want to come into Blues and Brews smokin’,” says guitarist Tony Rossario. “We’ll be doing a bunch of gigs between now and then, and ’tweeners during the festival, so we’re ready to pull the guns out!”
Joey Lindly’s scorching vocals have been garnering the band widespread attention, and Rossario is no slouch on guitar, with a long list of credits under his belt. The acclaimed guitarist is well known for his work with the band Firefall in the late 90s, but there’s more to this multi-faceted player. On the staff at Polygram Records for many years, Rossario has worked with an amazing array of major stars, including Pam Tillis, Alan Jackson, Michael Johnson, David Wilcox, even The Coasters. “Yeah, I played with them when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That was pretty cool,” Rossario notes.
Rossario has recently opened his True Tone Productions studio in Ridgway, and he adds that Hillbilly Hotel has been recording, with hopes on a new release this fall. “Joey and I have been working solidly, and we hope to have a record out in September.”
Hillbilly Hotel will be rocking it hard a couple of times this weekend, including at the Switchback Café in Ridgway tonight, and again Saturday night at The Last Dollar Saloon. “The response has been getting ridiculous,” laughs Rossario. “Every time we play at the Buck, it’s seems like I can’t get up to the bar to get a beer!” Kick up yer heels with Hillbilly Hotel, and watch for them to pop up frequently in the coming weeks.
Also in Ridgway this weekend, Fall Baby is back in action, and the groovin’ foursome takes the stage at the Sherbino Theatre tonight. Look for the mountain jam band again next week at the Chillin’ and Grillin’ Fest in Ouray and in Telluride later this month.
Also on the way, it’s The Waifs at the Sunset Concert Series on Wednesday in Telluride’s Mountain Village. After an extended hiatus, Australia’s favorite folk-rockers splashed back on the scene in a big way last year with their wonderful CD Sun Dirt Water. Catch the wave at the free show next week.
Also coming up, it’s Papa Grows Funk at the Telluride Conference Center on Aug. 22. Might want to grab a ticket soon.
In the meantime, get satisfied with the incomparable Taj Mahal Trio this afternoon, and celebrate the Telluride Festival of the Arts!