A Navajo musician’s quest to spread jazz across the Nation

28 Sep 2017

Arts and Culture

Delbert Anderson and his jazz trio play a bebop song that moves as quickly as a Chevrolet Bel-Air cruising down nearby Route 66. Warmed up and loose, the Navajo trumpeter plays a tune appropriately titled “Opener” — the church crowd in his palm. A smattering of mostly older Caucasian listeners sit politely in the pews, tuned to the three-piece ensemble.

If you stand outside the Church of the Holy Spirit where Anderson plays today, or anywhere in Gallup, New Mexico for that matter, you catch the din of train traffic — more of a roar the closer you get to Route 66, the town’s mainline. That lonesome whistle a blowin’, as Johnny Cash sang, lends an element of romantic transience to the town as if one could simply hop a train somewhere out west with more opportunities; Perhaps Phoenix or Los Angeles, if you have the courage. Drive toward downtown and you’ll pass by pawnshops filled with beautiful turquoise jewelry from local Navajos who could surely sell the items for a much better price in Santa Fe. A walk through the town square on a cool summer evening will yield a reward of Zuni dances, but you’ll pass a few homeless Native folks on the way.

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