Taj Mahal has always done it his own way. The musician, who was once known as Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, has made a name for himself as a blues player. But he has never restricted himself to the blues.
Fredericks, 71, has incorporated world music, Caribbean, jazz, folk, zydeco and African sounds into his sonic potpourri.
“It’s fun to mix things up,” Fredericks said. “Particularly when you’ve been playing for as long as I have.”
It’s been almost a half-century since Fredericks, who plays guitar, piano, banjo and harmonica, released his eponymous debut album in 1968.
Within two years, Fredericks was sharing a stage with the Rolling Stones. “By 1970 we were part of the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus,” Fredericks said. “There was nothing else like that. I think a lot of people might be surprised by this but the Rolling Stones were among the nicest people I’ve ever met in this business. They were always into the music. They were into the blues. I remember when some of them and the guys from the Animals were at a show I did at the Whiskey a Go-Go in 1970. They were into what I did and flew us all to London first class. It was an unbelievable experience.”
Fredericks has kept the acoustic blues flame burning courtesy of his consistent adventurous play. The Taj Mahal sound is far-reaching, but he has always gone back to his country-blues.
“That’s the foundation for me,” Fredericks said. “I do like to explore but I always come back.”
“American Horizon,” which dropped in 2009, is the last Taj Mahal disc released. Fredericks added Tex-Mex to his musical gumbo. He also mixed in funk and merengue for good measure.
“I had so much fun making that album,” Fredericks said. “I had some great guests, which is always nice.” Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and Hugo Arroyo fronted while Fredericks handled a variety of instruments.
The gorgeous “La Luna,” the rocking “Suenos” and the sublime “Best of Me” are part of an album that offers more variety than a convenience store.
“I never understood why we should just play the same type of song again and again,” Fredericks said. “Why repeat what you just did? I have fun going different places with each song on an album.”
Count on Taj Mahal, who will perform Saturday at the Orpheum, to take fans on a journey during the show. “That’s part of the experience,” Fredericks said. “When you play live, you can do anything, and one of the things I want to do is take people somewhere.”
Don’t expect Fredericks to slow down as he is on the cusp of his 50th anniversary as a performer. “I don’t want to stop or take it easier,” Fredericks said. “What else would I do? I look back at all of the great things I’ve experienced and I want to keep adding to it.”