One of the first shows I sought out on the October Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise was Taj Mahal. Well, Taj brought an entire revue with him.
Their show began with a set by Taj’s daughter’s (Deva Fredericks) group, Fredericks Brown. Soaring, soulful vocals filled the theater.
Following Fredericks Brown was the talented ngoni playing musician from Mali, Africa, Bassekou Kouyaté. His first set, honestly, did nothing for me. It seemed like endless noodling. I give every musician a second chance, however. I’m glad I did with Bassekou Kouyaté, because days later he delivered a blistering set that was a wonder to behold.
The venerable Taj Mahal headlined this revue’s set. I first bumped into Taj (literally) on the dance floor of Hollywood’s Whisky A-Go-Go back in 1967. I kept dancing without apology until a very cute blonde hippy chick said, “Don’t you know who this is? It’s Taj Mahal!”
I saw Taj in concert several times after that. Once he opened for Spirit right after returning from Africa. Taj was embracing what is now called World Music long before most of us. He delighted in bringing back to his audiences what he had learned on his musical and physical journeys.
My other Taj connection is my pal, paleontologist (and senior vice president and provost of science at the American Museum of Natural History) Michael Novacek. I met Mike on my first trip to Patagonia and Antarctica. He was one of the lecture scientists on board our AMNH trip. Little known fact: prior to Mike’s paleontological career, he was Taj’s lead guitarist!
I love musical discoveries and surprises. One of the biggest on our cruise was the amazing Carolyn Wonderland.
I had heard a good buzz about her on the ship, so I caught a set of hers on the Observation Deck stage, one of the smaller stages on the ship. The room was jam-packed. All I could see of Carolyn was the top of her head. She played the entire set looking down at the floor. I figured that she felt her incredible vocals and terrific guitar work were enough — that she didn’t fill compelled to deliver a personal or visual show.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Carolyn was deathly seasick. She’d play a siong, then vomit in the bucket at her feet, Play, vomit; play, vomit. I don’t know how she did it.
I decided to see Carolyn Wonderland again when she played the Stardust Lounge, the largest theater venue on board ship.
What a difference!
No longer seasick, Carolyn put on an amazing show. I think she won the hearts of each and every member of the audience. She was warm, she was funny — she was completely charming. And that voice and guitar! WOW! This Houston/Austin native really delivered on all fronts. And, on top of that, she reached down and then played a searing trumpet solo in the middle of one of her songs!
Catch Carolyn Wonderland if you can — you won’t be disappointed.