R. Carlos Nakai Creates Native Improvisations

GRAMMY-nominated flutist visits the GRAMMY Museum
  • Photo: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage.com
    R. Carlos Nakai performs at the GRAMMY Museum
  • Photo: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage.com
    R. Carlos Nakai speaks at the GRAMMY Museum
May 23, 2011 -- 12:28 pm PDT

GRAMMY-nominated Native American instrumentalist R. Carlos Nakai was the featured guest in an installment of the GRAMMY Museum's An Evening With series on March 31. Before an intimate audience at the Clive Davis Theater, Nakai discussed the concept of improvisation, Native American flute techniques and the origin of the instrument. Following the discussion, Nakai performed a brief set.

"The majority of [flute technique] is how well you can arrange your own melody, your own improvisation or a familiar tune so it works into the particular key range of this instrument," said Nakai. "It can be difficult, but it's very easy."

Born in Flagstaff, Ariz., and of Navajo-Ute heritage, Nakai originally studied classical trumpet, but took an interest in the flute when he was gifted with a traditional cedar wood flute. In 1983 he released his debut album, Changes, featuring original compositions and arrangements of traditional Native American flute songs from the Blood, Lakota and Zuni tribes. Nakai has released more than 20 albums, and two have been certified gold: Earth Spirit (1997) and Canyon Trilogy (1989). Carry The Gift, a collaboration with guitarist William Eaton, peaked at No. 6 on Billboard's New Age Albums chart in 1995. During his career, Nakai has also collaborated with composer James DeMars, flutist Paul Horn and pianist/composer Peter Kater, among others. In 2005 Nakai was inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame. He has garnered nine GRAMMY nominations to date, including six nominations in the Best New Age Album category. His most recent solo album, Talisman, was released in 2008. The GRAMMY-nominated Dancing Into Silence, a collaboration with Eaton and percussionist Will Clipman, was released in 2010.

Upcoming GRAMMY Museum events include Homegrown: Andy Grammer (May 31), and An Evening With Flavor Flav (June 1) and An Evening With Danny Elfman (June 8).

For more information on the GRAMMY Museum, visit www.grammymuseum.org.

Click on the "GRAMMY Museum events" tag below for links to other GRAMMY News stories in this series.

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