Taj Mahal Receives
the B.B. King Award

The Montreal Jazz Festival (The Festival International de Jazz de Montrealis) presented the B.B. King Award to Taj Mahal for his extraordinary contribution to the blues. The Award was presented to him on stage by Andre Menard, artistic director and co-founder.

Taj Mahal is the third recipient of the B.B. King Award. The Festival created the new award for its 35th edition in 2014, to honor and recognize the exceptional talent of an artist who has left an indelible mark on the blues scene.

A towering troubadour and explorer of African-American music, American bluesman, singer and multi-instrumentalist Henry Fredericks (as his birth certificate reads) has released over forty albums under his (stage) name, and collaborated with such giants as The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Ry Cooder, B.B. King, Bob Marley, John Lee Hooker and Miles Davis.

Born in Harlem in 1942 to a cultured, well-to-do family, he was exposed to music and African identity at an early age. After studying agronomics in college, Taj Mahal (the name came to him in a dream) launched his musical career in 1961 as a member of The Elektras.

In 1965, Taj Mahal moved to California and played in a number of groups including Rising Sons, formed with Ry Cooder, before setting out solo in 1968 and releasing a debut self-titled album associated with the Blues Revival. The artist would soon open the scope of the blues to Caribbean rhythms, funk and zydeco, and push forward into explorations with Indian musicians on Mumtaz Mahal (1995).

In 1998, he won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for Senor Blues (and followed with the same award in 2001 for Shoutin' In Key). Then, in 1999, a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with Malian kora virtuoso Toumani Diabate was immortalized as the musical dialogue on the album Kulujan, fulfilling a wish held dear by Taj Mahal's parents and grandparents: of a rapprochement between Blacks in America and Africa.

In 2008, he released his latest album, Maestro, and in 2014 received the Lifetime Achievement for Performance Award from the Americana Music Association. In his 55-year career, this undisputed blues master has worked to relate his experience to ancestral African traditions and in a way, by musically reuniting members of the same family separated far too long, has found a way to cure the blues of its melancholy.

As this year's recipient of the B.B. King Award, Taj Mahal succeeds James Cotton (2015), and the artist in whose name the trophy was created, B.B. King (2014).

Montreal Jazz Festival, July 2, 2016