Taj Mahal doesn’t wait for permission. If a sound intrigues him, he sets out to make it. If rules get in the way, he unapologetically breaks them. To Taj Mahal, convention means nothing, but traditions are holy.

He has pushed music and culture forward all while looking back lovingly. A brilliant artist with a musicologist’s mind, he has pursued and elevated the roots of beloved sounds with boundless devotion and skill.

Mahal can rightfully be called a living legend for his contributions to popular music, with a voice as instantly recognizable as Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles or Dr. John. Throughout his career, he has pushed the envelope of American music by incorporating sounds from the Caribbean, Africa, traditional blues and jazz. His new album Savoy is a loving throwback to the sounds of the swing and big-band era.

Mahal has won three Grammy Awards out of 15 nominations, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, and he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association.

Taj Mahal joined us in the Gumbo Kitchen for a conversation.