Taj Mahal hasn’t played harmonica much in public in the last few years, at least not so far as I can tell. When I was in my teens, Taj featured…

Taj Mahal hasn’t played harmonica much in public in the last few years, at least not so far as I can tell. When I was in my teens, Taj featured his harmonica extensively on his recordings, and I learned a lot from those records.

My favorite harmonica work by Taj is found on his double record set, Giant Steps/The Old Folks at Home. In particular, the harp on “Give Your Woman What She Wants” and “You Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond” is great stuff: a terrific amplified sound, a bit lighter and brighter than many amplified players, with a certain roughness to the breathing and tone that is very appealing; lots of sharp rhythmic turns, very simple and sophisticated all at once; and a very effective way of using low-register octaves to fatten the sound of the instrument.

My second CD includes a cover of “You Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond,” and that piece will carry a dedication to Taj. Careful listeners will hear one or two direct quotes from Taj’s recording on my version. I just couldn’t keep them out; like so much of what Taj does, those licks were simply, absolutely right.

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