Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In Review--R. Carlos Nakai's 25th Year Celebration

R. Carlos Nakai
Canyon Records

Twenty-five years ago, a friend gave R. Carlos Nakai a Native American flute to see what the former jazz trumpeter could do with it. Over the years, Nakai along with Kevin Locke, Mary Youngblood and other stalwarts had brought Native American flute to mass consciousness. But similar to an artist such as Mary Youngblood, Nakai took the indigenous flute into new realms, (European classical, jazz, and ethnic world sounds). The 62 year old flautist even journey into the realm of electronica on a couple of his albums.

Nakai's 25th anniversary release (with Canyon Records), Talisman travels full circle and we find Nakai once again performing on solo Native American flute on every other track. You will also find flute duos and the thoughtful Sunrise Prayer in Beauty. Talisman harks back to Nakai's first recording with Canyon Records, Changes. And true to its name, listening to Changes certainly brought much needed transformation to my life.

It's easy to imagine Nakai standing alone on the rim of a canyon playing his flute to the rising sun while perhaps an eagle or a falcon flies overhead. Nakai's repertoire whether performed in a symphonic hall, museum, or on someone's boom box, conjures the natural world. The title Talisman suggests this type of nature-base magic, something mysterious and alluring. Yet, something people living in the mundane world surrounded by too much stuff and emotional baggage cannot fully appreciate. You cannot hear the call of the wild and consumerism in the same breath. At some point a crossroads is reached and we must choose.

Listeners can still appreciate the haunting beauty of Nakai's flute as he performs songs with titles, Coyote Calling, Celestial Realm, and Cedar Breeze. But I suspect in listening to any heartfelt and soulful indigenous music, that the natural world will come calling and it will exact a price which will eventually lead to freedom and universal oneness.

As you can see, this is not an average music review. I am standing at that crossroads now as I receive more of Nakai's musical gift--his offering to us. Nakai picked up the indigenous flute 25 years ago to see where it would take him, and each of us, must take up our unique path to see where in 25 years it will take us. And starting today, make a choice to ensure that the planet is still around in all of its beauty 25 years from now and beyond.

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