R. Carlos Nakai is available as a solo performer, as a member of the new Acoustic trio Nakai, Eaton & Clipman, and with the World Fusion group, the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet.
The solo R. Carlos Nakai concert is a traditional show featuring Native American flute and eagle bone whistle, chanting, spoken word and Native philosophy (Track 1 on the Music Box). The trio concert is more expansive and meditative, with ambient guitar and hand percussion. (Track 2) The Quartet is a contemporary group, with sax, keyboard, electric bass and drums. The music is more rhythmic and danceable (Track 3).
To become the world’s premier Native American flutist, R. Carlos Nakai had to rely more on research and innovation and less on his Navajo-Ute heritage. While the Diné had a strong flute-playing tradition, it was lost when they migrated from the Northwest Plains of Canada to the Southwest over five centuries ago. While Nakai may not have been “born to the flute,” it was curiosity about his heritage that led him to it.
During the late 1960s while researching American Indian music and traditional instruments, the wooden flute piqued Nakai’s interest, but it wasn’t until 1972 that he took it up seriously. Prior to that Nakai had devoted his musical energies to classical training on the cornet and trumpet.
In his usual determination to have a thorough knowledge of the instrument, Nakai crafted his own. He later learned from a flute-making teacher that rather than the oak Nakai was using, cedar is the only wood that works well. He also discovered that when it comes to flute making, there are no standard dimensions. The finger holes and air column are based on hand and finger measurements and are never the same. As a result, each flute has a different sound and pitch, which makes the tonality of the instruments random. Nakai views each flute less as a musical instrument than “as a sound sculpture - a piece of art that also creates sound.”
Part of Nakai’s philosophy is to ensure that the native flute does not become a “museum piece” of a bygone culture. Through his original compositions and other musical collaborations, Nakai intends to show the instrument’s versatility and capabilities.
Over the past three decades, Nakai has melded his classical training with his expertise on the cedar flute to form a complex, sophisticated sound that not only reveals the flute’s uniqueness, but covers the spectrum of musical genres: from devotional meditations to jazz ensembles to full symphonic works. Additionally, Nakai creates new sounds for the flute using electronic technology such as synthesizers and digital delay.
A native Arizonan, Nakai’s southwestern surroundings as well as his culture, heavily influence his work. He points out “A lot of what I’ve been taught culturally, comes from an awareness of the environment... How I feel is based on my impressions of being in certain spaces at certain times. Thinking back...on personal tribal stories and the history of my culture figures into how I organize my music.”
Nakai has amassed unprecedented commercial honors, including 6 Grammy nominations and the first Gold and Platinum records awarded to a traditional Native American musician. A prolific musician and composer, he has 37 records in commercial distribution which have sold nearly 5 million copies worldwide.
This trio brings together the soaring melodies of R. Carlos Nakai's Native American flute, the vibrant tones of William Eaton's ambient, lyraharp guitar, and the subtle pulse of Will Clipman's worldbeat percussion. Together they create a music which is at once ethereal and earthy. It is a musical trialogue born and rooted in the Sonoran desert and colored by the sounds of the whole world.
William Eaton began playing stringed instruments when he was given a ukulele as a boy. He built his first guitar in 1971, and has spent years refining his craft as a teacher and administrator at the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, where he continues to design and build avant-garde stringed instruments. He holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Stanford, where he studied guitar with Charles Ferguson. In addition to his four ground-breaking collaborations with R. Carlos Nakai, Eaton has released four albums of his own on the Canyon Records label, including WHERE RIVERS MEET and NAKED IN EUREKA, and leads the William Eaton Ensemble.
A drummer since the age of three, Will has performed on over thirty recordings, including three solo releases on the Bone Fire label and nine collaborations with various artists for Canyon Records Productions. He holds a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Arizona, and his book DOG LIGHT is published by Wesleyan University Press. In addition to his work with the Trio, Will performs with the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet, the William Eaton Ensemble, Stefan George& Songtower, and as a soloist in Global Village Musical Story Theater.
In Native America, music and dance are never distant. In this spirit, the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet has recorded the first dance record featuring Native American Flute. R. Carlos Nakai's flowing melodies are enhanced by the restlessly creative imagination of saxophonist-keyboardist AmoChip Dabney, and the power drive rhythms of of ethno-world drummer Will Clipman and bassist Johnny Walker.
AmoChip Dabney has developed a mastery of many styles in his 50+ years of performing. Of African, Native American, and European descent,Amo (Ahmoe) has not only sought to understand those cultures, he uses this knowledge in performance and improvisation. He studied saxophone, bass, piano, and composition at the Newark School for the Performing Arts. He has collaborated with Sun Ra and his Omniverse Arkestra,O.J. Ekemode and The Nigerian Allstars, Zydeco’s Queen Ida, Jean Carn, New Orleans percussionist-singer and GRAMMY® winner Cyril Neville of the Neville Bros. Band, Steven Stills, Blues Giant Katie Webster, Harvey Brooks bassist (Miles Davis and Seals and Crofts), Mardi Gras Indian Monk Boudreaux, Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai, and many others. Dabney has appeared on more than 70 albums and has earned two GRAMMY® nominations.
Johnny Walker began playing bass professionally at the age of 15. As an Ohio native, he was indoctrinated in the deep funky grooves of the region including TheOhio Players, Slave, Sunn, Zapp, Bootsy's Rubber Band, Lakeside, Midnight Starr, and others. After service in the Air Force as a linguist, Walker attended the Berklee College of Music where he studied music theory, explored other music genres, and refined his bass technique. Walker has played on diverse projects ranging from jazz, fusion, R&B to rock and country and played for several years with Las Vegas’ best musicians at the Bellagio Hotel. He plays with world renown jazz guitarist Steve Laury and The Steve Laury Project as well as with Native American GRAMMY® nominee Radmilla Cody.Walker has remained active with various national and international freelance projects and performs regularly with Tucson’s top bands.
R. Carlos Nakai has open availability for all his touring formats.