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Summer jazz fusion concerts celebrate Indigenous connection to public lands

Jazz fusion band D'DAT, of Farmington, will go on tour this summer at perform at National Monuments and National Conservation Areas. (Courtesy D'DAT)
Bureau of Land Management artist-in-residence programs features Western tour and workshops from Farmington jazz ensemble D’DAT

Jazz and hip-hop songs with Native American influences will soon echo across the mesas and cultural sites of Western Indigenous lands, including at Bears Ears and Canyons of the Ancients national monuments.

As part of a Bureau of Land Management artist-in-residence program, Navajo jazz trumpeter Delbert Anderson and his band D’DAT will perform concerts and host music workshops at six national monuments and conservation areas this summer throughout the West.

It is the first time BLM’s artist-in-residence program will feature a band performing a cross-country tour on public lands.

D’DAT performs a combination of jazz, funk and hip hop that appeals to people of all backgrounds. Anderson grew up in Farmington and teaches jazz ensemble at San Juan College.

“We are excited, it is a way to honor Indigenous people and provide a space through music to acknowledge their cultures,” Anderson said in an interview with The Journal.

During the tour, Anderson and D’DAT will spend time at each location with local tribes researching Indigenous land stories and music.

The next day, a free public workshop will be held for residents to learn about music composition and help compose original pieces of music. The final day will feature a free outdoor concert on public land.

“We share how we compose and arrange our songs, how to use your experiences and culture to be yourself and create music,” Anderson said.

Trumpeter Delbert Anderson fuses his Navajo culture into jazz and hip hop music. (Journal file)

The 12 songs inspired from visiting the six areas will be made into an album.

“Samples or a sneak peak of music inspired by workshops and meetings with local tribes could make it into the concert,” Anderson said. “We will be in the studio in November putting it all together.”

The Painted Mountains Tour features music workshops followed by an outdoor concert the next day. Times and locations are pending. The schedule:

  • June 14-15: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
  • June 17-18: Bears Ears National Monument.
  • June 23-24: Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in Idaho.
  • June 27-28: Oregon’s Lower Deschutes River.
  • July 2, 4: California’s King Range National Conservation Area.
  • July 8-9: Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico.

Anderson and D’DAT fuse Navajo spinning songs into their modern jazz and hip hop compositions. A traditional Diné spinning song uses a method to create a new song based on the present moment, and passes it on to the next generation.

Anderson has been researching the tradition with elders since finding a tape of the songs from the 1920s.

“They had songs for everything – love, war, ceremonies and healing. The spinning songs I was influenced by were those with messages to our youth about minding manners,” Anderson said.

Elders compare the process to a tornado.

“Everything is spinning around, and what gets spit out is the new song,” he said.

There are parallels to D’DAT as well. The cyclone of band member experiences have melded their music into a genre-bending new category.

In the studio, Anderson starts off new songs with a melody from his Navajo traditions and uses improvisation to find new musical territory.

Band members join in the collaborative process. Lyricist James Pakootas, a member of the Colville Confederate Tribes, often translates his poems from an earlier hard life into authentic rap phrasing. Bassist Mike McCluhan’s background in jam bands fuels the exploratory groove, and drummer Nicholas Lucero’s rhythm keeps it all rolling with his jazz-band backbone and Latin influences.

“We hope everyone comes out, the workshops and concerts are open to everyone and free,” Anderson said. “Our style is unique. One time at a show in New York, we asked people to write down one word to describe us, and it was all different.”

D’DAT’s new album, “Born In An Odd Time,” will be released in June. The band’s first release was the self-titled album in 2016. A third album will be from songs in the Painted Mountains Tour.

The Painted Mountain tour ask attendees to preregister for the workshop and obtain free concert tickets via Eventbrite.

The music tour project is a new approach for the BLM artist-in-residence program, and for the band.

“It’s an amazing opportunity. There are a lot of logistics, we will be roughing it, camping a lot. The result will be an album that amplifies the Indigenous voice.”