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Free performance will seek donations for local nonprofit groups

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FARMINGTON — While Delbert Anderson has made himself a fixture on the local music scene over the past couple of years, it's more than a little ironic that his band, DDAT, has all but disappeared from the Farmington area in that time.

It's not that group has been idle, nor has it gone underground. Far from it, in fact. DDAT — a jazz quartet that also incorporates elements of hip hop, funk, soul, and Native and Latin rhythms into its sound — is in the process of breaking out as a national act. Band leader Anderson hopes to showcase the band's evolution this weekend, when it performs its first full show in Farmington in more than three years.

DDAT will perform a free concert for three local nonprofit organizations, giving its local fans their first chance to see the group perform a concert since April 2016. The combo, which has flirted with a higher profile for years through appearances on NPR and exposure in Smithsonian.com, finally caught fire in the latter half of 2019, paving the way for a busy and profitable 2020.

Anderson said DDAT already has approximately 50 engagements booked next year, most of them taking place in locales scattered around the country, and is negotiating dozens more. That includes three performances in New York and two in California. The group will augment its touring schedule with the recording of a new album and film industry work, he said.

By way of comparison, Anderson, a trumpet player who serves as an adjunct music professor at San Juan College, said the band has played only 40 to 50 shows in total over the last four years.

DDAT's quick move into the fast lane is largely the result of Anderson's ambition. Scouring the Internet a couple of years ago for new opportunities for his band, he discovered the Western Arts Alliance, a Portland, Oregon-based organization dedicated to presenting and promoting performing arts throughout the western United States and Canadian provinces.

Anderson, a Shiprock native who now lives in Farmington with his wife and four children, reached out to the group's officials and found a warm welcome. He was invited to take an active role in the organization by serving on some of its advisory committees, then he applied for and received a coveted spot in the organization's Launchpad program. Over the course of three years, Anderson and other emerging artists in the program receive technical assistance, professional development, mentoring, promotional benefits and membership in the alliance.

Much of that help takes the form of financial assistance designed to boost an artist's technological or creative capability, including the purchase of new software or recording equipment. Anderson declined to say how much money that amounted to, but he said it is a considerable amount spread out over the three years.

Mostly, though, the Launchpad program has put Anderson's band — which also includes vocalist Christopher Bidtah, bassist Mike McCluhan and drummer Nicholas Lucero — in front of people who can help artists take their career to another level. DDAT has taken full advantage of that exposure, delivering a well-received showcase performance in late summer before an audience of music business professionals in Los Angeles that included booking agents, management representatives, A&R people, publicists and recording industry executives.

Anderson said DDAT received 40 to 50 booking inquiries immediately after its performance, and many of those contacts bore fruit, resulting in contracts for shows around the country. As DDAT's profile has increased over the past several months, so has the size of its guarantees, Anderson said, driving up the group's income.

Among the audience members at the Los Angeles show was jazz bandleader Rodney Marsalis, cousin of jazz icons Wynton and Brandord Marsalis. Anderson said Rodney Marsalis was effusive in his praise of DDAT afterward, extending an invitation for Anderson and Lucero to join him on a short tour with his group — an opportunity Anderson hopes to take advantage of early next year.

In January, the quartet will perform at another music industry showcase in New York — essentially an East Coast version of the event it was featured at in Los Angeles — and Anderson hopes to make a similar positive impression there. If it does, the stakes likely will be raised again for a band that is experiencing its first real boom.

Anderson — who also serves as president of the San Juan Jazz Society, a local nonprofit organization devoted to promoting the growth of live music in the Farmington area — acknowledged that can create stress and pressure for artists, like himself, who have a family and are trying to juggle those interests with their newfound career demands. That's why he's grateful that the Launchpad program includes mentoring for personal, as well as professional issues.

"They supplied us with a music-oriented therapist, I guess you could say, who literally went through all the really hard questions with us — 'Is your wife OK when you're gone? How much money do you need to be making to make up for being gone all this time?' " Anderson said. "I got really lucky I ran into a program that really considers your family and where you're at in life. They were really concerned about taking care of me first."

Another sign of the WAA's commitment to its artists, Anderson said, is the fact that DDAT has been assigned a mentor who will visit Farmington this week to attend the concert and to spend time with the members of DDAT in their home environment.

"I hope he sees we're very caring and generous individuals who love our community," Anderson said. "And we want to show him that although our community is very small, we're still a world-class act and can hang with the bigger guys. We're kind of a Cinderella story."

DDAT performs at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Totah Theater, 315 W. Main St. in Farmington. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged, and all proceeds will benefit Hustle Kindness, Navajo Ministries and the Basin Good Neighbor Foundation. Call 505-327-4145.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610, or via email at measterling@daily-times.com.

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