Delbert Anderson Trio plans three local shows

Mike Easterling
The Delbert Anderson Trio is planning three local shows over the next several days, including the second installment in the Showcase on Dustin benefit concert series.

FARMINGTON — Local fans of the Delbert Anderson Trio will have not just one, but three opportunities over the next several days to see the jazz group that regularly plays some of the country’s largest markets and attracts national media attention.

The group — made up of bassist Mike McCluhan, drummer Nicholas Lucero and frontman and trumpeter Delbert Anderson, a member of the Navajo Nation who grew up in Shiprock — performs at high-profile jazz events from coast to coast and has been featured on the NPR’s “Earth Songs” program. It was the subject of a May 2015 episode of “Native America Calling,” which is broadcast on nearly 70 public, community and tribal radio stations in the United States and Canada.

But Farmington performances have been relatively rare. That all changes this month, when the DAT performs Friday, April 8, at San Juan College; Saturday, April 9, at the First Presbyterian Church; and Saturday, April 16, at 302 Main Espresso.

That comes on the heels of a performance by the band last weekend at the San Juan College Jazz Festival. Anderson said the series of local performances isn’t part of some well-thought-out plan but is instead largely just a coincidence.

“The way all of them came about was just being in the right place at the right time,” he said.

The Delbert Anderson Trio is working on a musical collaboration with hip-hop artist Def-i of Albuquerque that is designed to bring the group new listeners.

Anderson especially likes the fact that the three upcoming shows are taking place this month.

“Everything just kind of happened in April, which is pretty cool, because April is National Jazz Month,” he said.

The April 9 at the First Presbyterian Church is the second installment in the new Showcase on Dustin benefit concert series that opened in November. Mick Hesse, one of the organizers of the series, said the inaugural show went very well, attracting almost 250 people and raising approximately $2,000 for People Assisting the Homeless. This show will benefit Navajo Ministries.

“It was great,” Hesse said of the kickoff concert in which an 11-piece orchestra performed a program of some of the more well-known and popular pieces from the classical genre. “We were very well received, and people were asking when the next show on the calendar was. So we’re on the right track, I think.”

Hesse said he and Anderson are longtime friends, and he counts himself as a big fan of the trio.

“What’s unique about these guys is that Delbert is Native American, Mike is Anglo and Nicholas drives it with a Hispanic beat. So they’ve got their bases covered,” he said, explaining that the group incorporates a variety of cultural influences into its sound.

The DAT will be joined at this weekend’s show by local pianist Sheldon Pickering, and the program includes a number of jazz standards.

Pianist Sheldon Pickering will join the Delbert Anderson Trio in a performance this weekend as part of the Showcase on Dustin benefit concert series.

“Sheldon brings a pretty standard jazz approach to playing,” Hesse said, adding that the pianist’s outgoing personality and deep knowledge of the jazz standards library make him a natural for that kind of program. He said Pickering’s style dovetails nicely with the DAT lineup because it’s unusual for a jazz trio to feature a trumpet as the lead instrument.

“I came up with the idea of adding Sheldon because (the piano) adds a lot, to my ear,” he said. “As needed, Delbert can take a rest, and Sheldon can take over (as lead). It’s a long blow to play trumpet all night.”

Anderson said his group has been spending a lot of time lately composing new material and building a stronger set list. Typically, the band performs all-original material and focuses on a jazz sound strongly influenced by Native American rhythms.

But the group is going in another direction now with the recent addition of Albuquerque hip-hop artist Def-i, another Shiprock native. Def-i won’t be playing with the DAT during any of the three upcoming local shows, but he will join the group during its performance at the Gathering of Nations at the end of April in Albuquerque.

The band also recently shot a video of a live performance at the Sunflower Theatre in Cortez, Colo., that it submitted for a contest on the “Tiny Desk” show on NPR. Anderson said the contest drew more than 6,000 entries, and while his band’s submission didn’t win, it did finish in the top 10 — an accomplishment that attracted a lot of attention and provided the band a number of new opportunities.

But before the DAT begins to take advantage of those, Anderson said the group is focused on completing a new CD with Def-i. He said all the songs have been written, and rehearsals have gone well. The band plans to enter the studio within the next month or two and knock the project out within a matter of hours, though Def-i will lay down his vocal tracks at a studio in California.

He believes the collaboration with the rapper will yield benefits for his band and for Def-i, even if jazz and hip-hop aren’t regarded as musical bedfellows in most quarters.

“We’re bringing a lot of music to the hip-hop side, instead of just beats,” he said, while adding that he hopes Def-i’s presence will draw younger listeners to the DAT.

Anderson said the collaboration with Def-i is something that has been in the works for some time, but he said he and the rapper still haven’t quite figured out how to market their new sound.

“We’re still trying to figure out a genre,” he said, laughing. “What do we call it? We’ve kind of talked about hip hop jazz funk.”

Anderson said the new disc will be released just as the band ramps up its national performance schedule. The DAT already is slated to take part in major festivals in Telluride, Colo., and Ann Arbor, Mich., while a two-week tour of the West Coast has been scheduled, as well. Additionally, the band already has been booked for a repeat performance at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas in October.

“We have a lot of thing to look forward to,” Anderson said.

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

Delbert Anderson says his band a lot to look forward to this year with a new CD in the works and some national touring.

If you go

What: The Delbert Anderson Trio with the Close Enuff Jazz Combo

When: 7 p.m. Friday, April 8

Where: Henderson Fine Arts Center on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington

Admission: Free

For more information: Visit

What: Delbert Anderson Trio and pianist Sheldon Pickering in the Showcase on Dustin concert series

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, April 9

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 865 N. Dustin Ave. in Farmington

Admission: $5 at the door

What: AM Jazz with the Delbert Anderson Trio

When: 8:30-10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 16

Where: 302 Main Espresso inside the Artifacts Gallery, 302 E. Main St. in Farmington