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Diné jazz trumpeter Delbert Anderson and his quartet perform at ASU Kerr Scottsdale

Coverage of tribal natural resources is supported in part by Catena Foundation

Drawing inspiration from Diné melodies old and new, the Delbert Anderson Quartet brought its jazz, funk and groove-infused selections to Scottsdale on Saturday night. This group performed at the historic ASU Kerr facility north of Old Town Scottsdale.

Delbert Anderson has come a ways from his Navajo hometown of Shiprock in New Mexico.

“That song was called ‘Totah’ and it means ‘between waters,’” said Anderson, “in Farmington where the three rivers turn into one: La Plata, San Juan and Animus.”

His band’s musical works have focused on water and geographical features, so much so that the Bureau of Land Management granted Anderson and his group, formerly known as D’DAT, a spot within BLM’s Artist-in-Residence program. 


Their project, the  2022 Painted Mountains Tour, brought the band to five national conservation lands sites during that summer. They met with culturally associated tribal communities and learned stories about that land, often connected to creation tales, and collaborated to create new music. Each trip on the tour ended with an outdoor public performance of two songs they workshopped together.

Over the weekend, this Diné jazz trumpeter and his multicultural quartet played songs, like “Iron Horse Gallup,” about a bumpy Amtrak trip the band took from the New Mexico reservation border town to Los Angeles. “And we wrote this song while we’re on the train,” added Anderson, “but it was really, really uncomfortable.”

Another song, “Where’s the Native,” is the title of a score inspired by a stage soundcheck at the State Fair of Texas.

“Anytime that the Delbert Anderson Quartet is booked somewhere, we are always asked if we can be marketed as a Native American band,” Anderson explained. “The sound engineer ran around the curtain and said, ‘Hey, where’s the Native?’”

Anderson reflected on that memory with humor.

“It’s a stereotype that we always go through and I think he was expecting rattles and regalia, but not this time,” added Anderson. “This goes out to the sound engineer. Thank you so much for naming the song for us.”

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Gabriel Pietrorazio is a correspondent who reports on tribal natural resources for KJZZ.