"An Evening of Acoustic Music - Double-LP" - 2009
When Taj Mahal toured Europe solo in 1993, audiences welcomed him like an old friend. And the feeling was mutual. As his original liner notes for the CD release of “An Evening Of Acoustic Music” reveal, there were positive vibrations coming from all sides: „Over the years of touring and recording, special gems and magic nights happen! These recordings capture one such night. I am always flattered by the fact that the European audience is so much aware of what it is that I do and are such enthusiastic fans!“. A heartfelt statement coming from a veteran artist who’s been around long enough to know.
Taj Mahal was in ebullient mood during his Bremen concert at the Modernes club on Oct. 6th, 1993. After a slight career slump in the Eighties, he was back on track again, with excellent new albums on offer and re-energized for the concert stage. Many virtues of a great Taj Mahal performance were on evidence on this tour, with set-lists featuring a virile cross-section of songs from the African-American tradition, ranging from the humorous („Satisfied’n’Tickled Too“) to the chilling („Take This Hammer“). A musical smorgasbord that didn’t leave much to be desired for novices and fans alike. With one of the non-musical highlights of this particular night veering into comical territory: an impromptu lesson for the German audience on how to clap on the backbeat in the realm of „Schwarze Musik“…
This wonderful recording features a number of intense interpretations of the classic African-American blues repertoire: the archetypal tough guy story of „Stagger Lee“., the lovelorn darkness of Robert Johnsons „Come On In My Kitchen“, the cheerfulness of the Mississippi Sheiks’ „Sittin’ On Top Of The World“. Not many bluesmen inhabit these classic tunes like Taj Mahal, who even dared to close proceedings with one of his more archaic banjo instrumentals: “Tom & Sally Drake“, one of five duo performances with Howard Johnson, jazzman extraordinaire and master tuba player. A musical and personal encounter that sparked a lot of joy and brought two kindred spirits back together. It had been a while since the two men had been on stage together, with memories of Mahal’s early 70s “tuba band” still very much alive. Howard Johnson had been one of four tuba players in this legendary band. In the early 1990s he was also working for the Radio Bigband of Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg/Germany.
For the original CD edition of „An Evening Of Acoustic Music“, renowned German graphics artist Henning Wagenbreth could be won for the cover and booklet design. Teaching visual communication at Berlin University of the Arts, GDR-born Henning Wagenbreth is not only one of the most fascinating visual artists working in Germany today, he is also a true lover and aficionado of African-American music. For the design of this new vinyl edition, Wagenbreth came up with new illustrations to every single song, applying his trademark combination of playful/surrealist subjectiveness and expressionist objectiveness. The comically absurd nature of his expression correlates with the content of the songs in a truly colorful way, making for a new dimension of Taj Mahal’s music. This new piece of work might well soon turn into a collector’s item.
The quirky style of Henning Wagenbreth also seems to serve as a means of re-engaging with the music. With his bizarre sense of humour and the intense appreciation of the African-American experience shining through, this Berlin artist provides an extra dimension to the content of Taj Mahal’s work. Even one glance at the opalescent multitude of colours brings home the message: this item stands as a meeting of two artistic voices that correspond with each other in a new kind of way - an ingénue visual artist providing additional layers of meaning to a cherished world of song. While there might have been great album covers in the past – this one is truly special. Just like the music, in fact. Taj Mahal’s „An Evening Of Acoustic Music“ - out on vinyl for the very first time.