The first two phrases of the melody from “Oh! Susana,” is based on the major pentatonic scale, or musical mode, which contains five notes per octave. So are a majority of Native American pow wow chants.
“The guys who are singing, that’s all they’re doing; using the pentatonic scale,” said Navajo tribesman and jazz trumpeter Delbert Anderson. “When making these songs … I used the pentatonic scale to just give that Native American feel.”
A native of Farmington – not the typical hotspot for a jazz musician – Anderson is influenced by hard bop trumpeter Clifford Brown and saxophonist Sonny Rollins. A student of jazz for more than a decade, he is committed to expanding the reach of a genre of music that originated in black communities more than a century ago.
“We need to keep this true American art form alive,” said Anderson.
In 2013, Anderson joined forces with bassist Mike McCluhan and drummer Nicholas Lucero to form The Delbert Anderson Trio. Current ambassadors of jazz to the deserts across the Southwest, The Delbert Anderson Trio makes a performance stop at the Sunflower Theater in downtown Cortez on Friday, May 29. Tickets for the 7 p.m. show are $15. Doors open at 6:15 p.m., and a cash bar is available.
When not playing gigs at theaters, nightclubs or festivals, band members enjoy performing for school children. With a grant from the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation, the band routinely offers educational performances.
“If I can make one kid say, ‘Wow, that’s what I want to do,’ that’s my goal,” said McCluhan. “To inspire somebody to play music.”
A native of New York, McCluhan takes inspiration from musicians ranging from the psychedelic jams of The Grateful Dead to the collective improvisations from double bassist Charles Mingus.
Born in Albuquerque and raised in southern Colorado, Lucero started playing saxophone, piano and marimba at age five. Today, fusion pianist Chick Corea and legendary saxophonist John Coltrane are major influences. And combining traditional jazz with Anderson’s Native roots, well, that’s a fortunate opportunity, he said.
“Delbert’s talent transcends his race, and transcends the genre of music that we play,” said Lucero. “He’s a shining star in the Native American community.”