Sonora (the “Singing Desert”) is in full bloom, not only with beautiful flowers of every description but also with indescribably beautiful music; so venture out and enjoy one or more of the wonderful performances described in this April issue of your A 440 Newsletter!
Ambient Funk at Noble Hops
When we’re not working with R. Carlos Nakai as three-fourths of RCNQ, AmoChip Dabney (keyboards, saxophones, acoustic guitar and lead vocals) Johnny Walker (electric five-string bass and backing vocals) and Will Clipman (drums, percussion and backing vocals) venture out as Ambient Funk: an irresistibly danceable trio playing an eclectic mix of originals and classic R&B, funk, jazz, reggae and worldbeat covers. On Thursday April 6th from 7-10 PM we’ll be on the patio at Noble Hops in Tucson AZ.
I’m not a gambling man, but I bet you’ll come up a winner with these three concerts by the contemporary instrumental trio Trialogue, featuring Sherry Finzer on classical-jazz flutes, Darin Mahoney on Americana acoustic guitars and Will Clipman on world drums and percussion. Over the span of eight days, we’ll perform at three of Southern Arizona’s premiere venues:
On Friday April 7th at 7 PM we’ll be on the Ullman Terrace outdoor amphitheater stage at the fabled Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix AZ for a magical evening of original music, gourmet dining and fine wine. Please note: due to the latter, this is a 21+ show!
And on Friday April 14th we’ll return to The Valley of the Sun for a coveted appearance on the world-renowned Musical Instrument Museum Theater stage at 7:30 PM.
We’ll be joined for this show by the William Eaton Trio, featuring harp guitarist and master luthier William Eaton playing his otherworldly multi-stringed instruments, the amazing Claudia Tulip on classical-world flutes and vocals, and yours truly on pan-global drums and percussion; rumor has it the finale of this double-bill will be a world premiere improvisational jam by all five musicians as the Quintessential Quintet!
Since 1934, the Tucson Mountains Association has been dedicated to preserving the Tucson Mountains environment while enhancing the well-being of our residents; on Earth Day, Saturday April 22nd, R. Carlos Nakai & Will Clipman will perform a benefit “friendraising” concert for TMA from 4-6 PM at Painted Hills Church in Tucson AZ.
tickets & more info about TMA at:
photo courtesy Robert Doyle Photography/Canyon Records
if. . . Forever
March 30th marked the 30th anniversary of the untimely death of guitarist Dan Hill at the age of twenty-six. Dan’s incendiary intergalactic sound was at the heart of the mid-80’s cosmic rock band if. . . , which included bassist Darrel Mayers, lead vocalist Spanna and yours truly on drums. In fond remembrance of Dan’s astounding musicianship and beautiful spirit, Darrel created a Bandcamp page where our CD Forever can be downloaded for free. . . as our gift to the universe. . . and our thank-you to Dan!
photos courtesy SpannaMo Archives
Poem of the Month
Your April Poem of the Month is a meditation on the ever-changing unpredictability of weather, both outer and inner; and on the impermanence of things, including ourselves, that we take for granted will last. . . forever. . . . For me, this is anything but morbid: it’s a wake-up call to live fully in the present moment, and to try to make a difference every day as if it were my last. I trust you’ll find it as uplifting to read as I did to write!
Sometimes our focus is only on what is right in front of us, or only on what is way off on the horizon; but perhaps it is best to focus on what is in the middle distance: that which is just beyond our immediate grasp, yet is realistically achievable. With that notion in mind, please enjoy all the good news in the March issue of your A 440 Newsletter!
RCNQ at Heard Museum
On Saturday March 4th at 1 PM and Sunday March 5th at noon, the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet will return to the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market in Phoenix AZ for two outdoor festival sets followed by meet-and-greets and CD-signings.
photo by Shery Christopher / Prisma™ effects by Johnny Walker
What Lies Beyond #1. . .Times Two!
The new Canyon Records album What Lies Beyond by the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet begins March at #1 on the Mystic Sister Top Twenty Playlist for both of show host Annie Stillwater Gray’s home stations: WMHB-FM in Waterville ME and WXNZ-FM in Skowhegan ME. Thanks for spinning us to the top, Annie. . . time for another RCNQ New England tour?!
Beginning on Monday March 6th and concluding on Monday March 27th, I’ll conduct my fifth annual Arizona Alive! Storytelling Artist-in-Residency with fourth grade students at Sonoran Sky School in Scottsdale AZ. Based on their studies of Arizona history (and prehistory) the students will research, compose and perform their own original myths, fables, tall tales, action adventures and “personal memoirs” to bring the story of Arizona to life. I can’t wait to see what flights of imagination this year’s Thunderbirds will take!
On March 23rd between 3 PM and 5 PM I’ll join show host Gabriel Ayala on KPYT-FM for his Liner Notes show; we’ll be spinning tracks from the new RCNQ CD What Lies Beyond and discussing the creation of the album and the evolution of the band.
live-stream the show online at
5 Arts Circle
Arizona’s premier philanthropic organization supporting the arts
Inspired by the nature and culture of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert while embracing a global perspective, I’ll present an interactive evening of world music and mythopoetic storytelling for an intimate gathering of the 5 Arts Circle Board of Directors, Corporate Partners and prospective members in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains on the evening of Wednesday March 29th.
photo by Stephen Meckler
The new Heart Dance Records CD Trialogue by Sherry Finzer, Darin Mahoney & Will Clipman is a Nominee for the Zone Music Reporter Awards in the Instrumental Acoustic Album category. Voted on by radio show hosts worldwide, the awards will be announced at a gala ZMR gathering in New Orleans LA on the weekend of May 12-13.
info & tickets at
ZMR Music Awards Live Show Nominees
Trialogue Spring Previews
Meanwhile, Trialogue will bring its original blend of classical-jazz flute, Americana guitar and world percussion to two of Southern Arizona’s best-loved concert venues: Ullman Terrace at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix on Friday April 7th at 7 PM, and the Community Performing Arts Center in Green Valley on Wednesday April 12th at 7 PM. These shows typically sell out, so advance tickets are highly recommended.
DBG Trialogue ticket link
DBG Trialogue Facebook link
Trialogue direct CPAC ticket link
General CPAC info link
photo collage by Shery Christopher
Jack Miller GRAMMY® Tribute
Kathy Norris, Director of Promotions at Canyon Records, created this “boxed set” of video tributes to the late, great GRAMMY-winning engineer Jack Miller for the 59th Annual GRAMMY® Awards telecast. I had the privilege and pleasure of working on thirty-four albums with Jack for Canyon Records, six of which–including my solo album Pathfinder–have received GRAMMY nominations over the years. I always referred to Jack as The Sonic Buddha for his impeccable musical ear, unimpeachable technical expertise and imperturbable personal equanimity. Jack was a master craftsman and a beautiful human being; he is fondly remembered and keenly missed.
photo courtesy Robert Doyle Photography/Canyon Records
Myth Has Its Own Logic
I love synchronicity and serendipity! On the afternoon of my recent Myths & Masks performance at Galactic Center here in Tucson, I received a Google® Alert from Kathy Norris at Canyon Records announcing the release of the song Mythologic from the album Dream of the Sun by the Albuquerque NM-based singer/songwriter Cole Raison, who had invited me a few years ago to come to Philadelphia PA (my birthplace) to record tracks for his new CD at Big Sky Audio. All of these interwoven storylines intersected on a Full Snow Moon, and I’d like to think the “coincidence” gave my performance that night a special mythic resonance.
listen to Mythologic at
Myths & Masks at Galactic Center / photo by Kati Astraeir
Nakai & Clipman on KXCI
R. Carlos Nakai and I were invited to record an episode of the Locals Only show on KXCI-FM to promote the recent Healing Power of Music event in Tucson. As you can tell from our wardrobe selection, we weren’t aware the show was also going to be video recorded for re-broadcast on Creative Tucson TV; our “perfect-for-radio” look notwithstanding, both the one-song video clip and the full audio interview are worth checking out.
(scroll down to the third post)
And as these video clips by Shery Christopher clearly show, the concert performance by the full R. Carlos Nakai Quartet turned out to be epic as well, when RC launched into his legendary Wallaby Dance and prompted a Gnu Queue Dance Party with the audience spontaneously joining us on stage!
The Wallaby Dance
The Gnu Queue Dancers
photo by Shery Christopher
RIP Bruce Tost
I got the news after my February newsletter had already gone out that renowned Tucson saxophonist and music educator Bruce Tost died on February 6th. Bruce was a big man with a big sound and a big heart. He and I played together in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s with The Ortskestra, an all-star ensemble that also included at different times Steve Roach, R. Carlos Nakai and William Eaton, and which accompanied live performances by Orts Theater of Dance, Tucson’s foremost modern dance company of that era. Bruce always brought a wry sense of humor, deep musical knowledge and an improvisational fearlessness to the proceedings; he was one of the good guys, and he will be missed.
Coming full-circle to our lead-in, your March Poem of the Month attempts to render in words the actual experience that put me in mind of our theme. I had taken a short break from rehearsing my Myths & Masks show out in the studio here at Rancho Improvisoso, and happened to focus my attention on just the right point in space at just the right moment in time to witness this little epiphany. Enjoy!
In the Middle Distance
Between power lines in the foreground
and a passing military helicopter in the background
a red-tailed hawk teaches its offspring to hunt.
The middle distance fills with their effortless grace,
the small one mimicking the large one’s thermal dexterity,
both borne aloft on rivers of white desert cloud
with barely an occasional languid wing-flap.
Thus is the nature of things revealed: a moment
silent and still enough for equilibrium to be achieved;
neither grasping nor letting go, filling emptiness
to the brim and no further; horizon to horizon,
beginning to end, each step a dance, each breath a prayer.
Thus the world comes to us: just when we meant to do
something else terribly important, of so much less significance.
As we complete the lunar year and initiate a new cycle of thirteen moons, it’s fitting that the February issue of your A 440 Newsletter dispenses with chronological order and celebrates both significant endings and promising beginnings. Enjoy!
Governor’s Arts Awards Nomination
I’m humbled and honored to be a 2017 Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards Nominee in the Artist category. Perhaps my third nomination in this millennium will be a charm! You can view all the Nominees and learn more about the awards process at:
On Friday February 10th at 7 PM I’ll present a rare performance of my Myths & Masks solo show, which features my original multicultural mask art, mythopoetic storytelling and live world music, in the cosmically groovy confines of Tucson’s coolest performance gallery Galactic Center. Rumor has it that some well-known local artists and performers may join me for some high-spirited improvisation, so this Gem Show special event will indeed be special! Tickets for this show are available at the door only; so while there are no bad seats in this intimate and comfortable venue, early arrival is recommended.
I’ll conclude my 20th annual Myths & Masks Artist-in-Residency at Cheyenne Traditional School on Friday February 3rd with our mini-showcases of student work, which as always has been inspired and inspiring. Many thanks to everyone at CTS for another wonder-filled M&M AiR!
The Healing Power of Music
On Monday February 6th at 9 PM I’ll appear with R. Carlos Nakai on KXCI Community Radio for three short sets of music interspersed with an interview to promote The Healing Power of Music. The show will be broadcast live on 91.3 FM and video-recorded for re-broadcast on Creative Tucson TV Channel 20.
photo by Robert Doyle, courtesy of Canyon Records
On Friday February 17th we’ll appear on the KGUN-9 TV show Morning Blend to further promote this wonderful event.
Then on Friday February 24th at 7 PM, the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet will be among the featured performers at the actual event: The Healing Power of Music conference at the Berger Center for the Performing Arts in Tucson AZ.
info and tickets at
photo by Shery Christopher / Prisma™ effects by Johnny Walker
RCNQ at Mesa Arts Center
On Saturday February 11th at 7:30 PM I’ll be in concert with the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa AZ. RCNQ will perform selections from its new Canyon Records global native fusion release What Lies Beyond along with fan favorites from the classic Q repertoire.
Writing for Zone Music Reporter, noted contemporary instrumental music critic Bill Binkelman just penned this over-the-top take on the eponymous Heart Dance Records release by the acoustic trio Trialogue. Many thanks to Bill for his generosity toward our music, and in particular the kind words he has for yours truly: indeed, who needs a dialogue when you can have a trialogue?
SHERRY FINZER, DARIN MAHONEY, AND WILL CLIPMAN
Heart Dance Records
Flutist Sherry Finzer, best known (to ZMR followers) for her ambient/meditative music, e.g. her Sanctuary series and her excellent desert-themed recording with guitarist Darin Mahoney, Transformation, reveals a kick-up-yer-heels aspect to her musical persona on the energizing, delightful excursion into world beat/jazz fusion territory, Trialogue. Joining her are the aforementioned acoustic guitar wonder Mahoney and world-class percussionist and drummer Will Clipman. If you know anything about Clipman, you can well imagine the rhythmic party you are in for on this disc. However, what is a revelation is both Finzer’s and Mahoney’s talent across a variety of genres and styles of music beyond the haunting beauty of their collaboration on Transformation.
Part of that may be due to the influence of master-class drummer Clipman who has dazzled me with his percussive artistry back to the days when I first heard him as part of the William Eaton Ensemble. This man’s talent across a global-encompassing assortment of drums and percussion instruments is nothing short of amazing! Of course, Finzer is, as the saying goes, not chopped liver. She matches Clipman step for step, with ease I might add. And Mahoney, while he may not share the spotlight as often as his two co-stars, provides such solid support that his contributions cannot be minimized.
No matter what the mood, tempo, flavor or subgenre of any one track on Trialogue, the overall feeling I got every time I listened to this fantastic album is one of fun, the fun that artists who are truly tuned in and simpatico experience when their wavelengths intersect and merge. It’s apparent on the jazz fusion opener, “Code d’lvoire” with its “joie de vivre” sensibility and its carefree melody as well as on track two “Mending Fences” and its reflective guitar-driven opening which evolves into a soft rocking tune. “Midnight in Marrakech” pulses under Clipman’s sensual world beat rhythms on frame drum and Finzer’s sexy snaky flute lines, accented by Mahoney’s rhythm guitar work. Where “Confused” has an ambling melancholic feel to it, “Dark Horse” uses Finzer’s flute to paint a distinctly western musical landscapes, accented by Clipman’s trap kit drum underpinnings. “Top Down” has the breezy easy-going nature of the titular trip down highway 1 in a convertible Mustang GT – not too revved up but certainly movin’ down the road. The easy-going sound of “Thanks for Asking” speaks of three musicians who are not just on the same page but are of the same mind.
Trialogue is one of those recordings that I can reach for no matter my mood. It’s like a well-worn pair of sneakers—nondescript but oh so essential to my enjoying any trip I set out on: three artists who sync up and create musical magic, seamlessly merging jazz, world, and new age in a hybrid that provides hours of listening enjoyment. Who needs a dialogue when you can have a trialogue?
Zone Music Reporter
Trialogue can be sampled, downloaded and purchased at
And speaking of Trialogue, we’re on the nominating ballot for this year’s Zone Music Reporter Awards in both the Instrumental-Acoustic Album and Album of the Year categories. The awards are voted on by radio programmers around the world who are part of the ZMR promotional network, many of whom have been playing music from our CD over the past nine months since its release. Thanks to all of you for spinning our tunes, and we welcome your support for these awards if you find our music worthy of your vote!
UK Radio Interview
One of the aforementioned programmers, Terry Hawke, interviewed me recently (and brilliantly) for his Hawke Chill Out Sessions show, which broadcasts around the world from the United Kingdom. For those of you who missed the live-stream, here’s a link to the archive:
In the mid-1980’s, after stints with Street Pajama, The Resistors, and Rainer & Das Combo, I joined the legendary Tucson band if. . .
Comprised of two Brits (Spanna and Darrel) and two Yanks (Dan and myself) if. . . played an original brand of melodic dance rock that quickly made it one of The Old Pueblo’s most sought-after club acts.
With socially, environmentally and spiritually conscious lyrics delivered in the crystal-clear voice of lead singer Spanna, fueled by the incendiary intergalactic guitar of Dan Hill, and propelled by the heart-pounding rhythm section of bassist Darrel Mayers and yours truly on drums, if. . . cultivated a cult following that remains enamored of its slender recorded oeuvre to this day, thirty years after Dan’s untimely death in 1987 at the age of twenty-seven and the inevitable dissolution of the band.
Two of our vintage ’80’s videos have recently come to light, courtesy of producer Charley Brown, and forwarded to Darrel in Austin TX and myself in Tucson AZ by Spanna on Oahu, HI; I wanted to share them with you here to honor Dan’s life and music as we approach the anniversary of his departure into the light, and also just because they’re really fun to watch and listen to–were we ever really that young? Enjoy!
Centre of the Echo
RIP Michael Diamond
And speaking of departures into the light: I just received the news that contemporary instrumental musician, composer, producer and music writer Michael Diamond died unexpectedly at the end of January. I didn’t know Michael well, but his recorded and written oeuvre is intelligent, sensitive and entertaining; and he was always gracious and generous to other musicians and their music. He was one of the good guys, and he will be missed.
Photo of the Month
Shery was out hiking with a friend last weekend and chanced upon this delightfully deformed saguaro. I’m loathe to impose sociopolitical projections on nature; but with our environment under renewed and redoubled assault just now, I can’t help but see in this upraised cactus “hand” a universally-recognized gesture of defiance. This is one prickly succulent who’s mad as heck and not taking it any more!
photo by Shery Christopher
Poem of the Month
I read recently that the exponentially accelerated rate and scope of human-influenced planetary change has led geologists to concur that we’re now in a new epoch, which they’re calling The Anthropocene. In the same issue of the same magazine, I also read a fascinating profile on the aerial photography of Edward Burtynsky, whose work renders large-scale industrial landscapes as disturbingly beautiful abstractions. That interface of science and art was just too juicy to pass up, so I penned this new Poem of the Month to explore this confluence further. I trust you’ll find it thought-provoking.
I for one was more than happy to send the old year up in sacred smoke and ring in the new year with time’s chimes. So with all best wishes for all the best to all in 2017, please enjoy these upcoming highlights in your January A 440 Newsletter!
UK Interview with Terry Hawke
I’ll start the new year on an international note with a live interview on the Hawke Chill Out Sessions radio show, which flies around the world from its home aerie in the United Kingdom. Wherever you roost, you can live-stream this far-reaching conversation between yours truly and host Terry James Hawke at one of these three links:
The show airs on Saturday January 7th at Midnight GMT (7 PM EST / 6 PM CST / 5 PM MST / 4 PM PST) and will feature selected cuts from my solo Canyon Records CD Pathfinder and my trio Heart Dance Records CD Trialogue with Sherry Finzer & Darin Mahoney interspersed throughout the interview.
Native American Festival with RCNQ
On Friday & Saturday, January 13th & 14th, I’ll land closer to home for a concert and festival set with the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet at the West Valley Native American Arts Festival in Litchfield Park AZ. The Friday night full concert is at 7 PM in Sachem Hall at the Wigwam Resort; the Saturday set will be on the festival grounds, time TBA.
New Kudos for What Lies Beyond
Meanwhile, the boundary-busting new global native fusion RCNQ album What Lies Beyond from Canyon Records continues to garner rave reviews, including this latest one by Angel Romero, writing for the world’s foremost on-line world music symposium World Music Central:
On Monday January 16th at 7 PM, the contemporary instrumental trio Trialogue will perform a concert for elders in the Ballroom at Grandview Terrace in Sun City AZ, playing selections from their eponymous Heart Dance Records CD.
Awakening the Rillito Fire
On Sunday January 22nd from 9 AM-1 PM I’ll join R. Carlos Nakai to provide musical atmosphere for the Rillito Farmers Market. This newest addition to the panoply of Old Pueblo open-air markets features organic produce from local growers and artisanal products from regional craftspeople. Add homegrown Native American flutes and world percussion and it’s a don’t-miss Sunday morning outing down by the river!
Myths & Masks at Cheyenne Traditional School
From Monday January 23rd through Friday February 3rd I’ll return to Cheyenne Traditional School in Scottsdale AZ for my 20th annual Myths & Masks Artist-in-Residency. It’s become a rite of passage for the fourth grade students there, and I’m looking forward to a new crop of mythic persona poetry, wearable mask art, and of course our community showcase at Evening Under the Stars in the Spring.
Preview: Myths & Masks at Galactic Center
Looking ahead to next month: On Friday February 10th at 7 PM, in conjunction with the internationally-acclaimed Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, I’ll present a rare concert performance of Myths & Masks at Galactic Center in Tucson AZ. Tickets will be $10 at the door only for this don’t-miss evening of mythopoetic storytelling, world music and original mask art, all in the Old Pueblo’s most intergalactically groovy art gallery!
Preview: RCNQ & The Healing Power of Music
And looking a bit further ahead into next month: the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet will make a rare hometown concert appearance as part of The Healing Power of Music conference at the Berger Center for the Performing Arts in Tucson AZ on Friday February 24th at 7 PM.
info and advance tickets are available at:
Photos of the Month
One Sunday morning over the winter solstice holiday I happened to be doing some dishes and looking out our Window on the Wild when this gorgeous trickster leapt into the frame after one of our bunnies; failing to catch one (whew!) it decided it might as well quench its thirst with a cold drink from our standing water bowl. Shery happened to have her phone-cam in hand and leapt into the frame to capture these spontaneous snapshots. Enjoy!
Poem of the Month
It was a challenging and difficult holiday season for us here at Rancho Improvisoso. I found daily inspiration and hope in the blessings of our abundant wild nature, especially the fierce joy with which our tribe of indigenous hummingbirds conduct their winter magic. This January Poem of the Month is an ode of gratitude for all the silver linings that outshine the dark clouds. Enjoy!
Inches from my nose the thunderous drum of your heart
beats within the iridescent shimmer of your emerald breast;
the breeze of your wings as they carve infinity out of thin air
fans my hands that hold the cold fresh nectar in a mason jar.
I’d love for you to grip my finger with those tiny talons
or flick my face with your Quetzalcoatl tongue; alas
your obsidian eyes bore into mine with untouchable ferocity
and you keep the infinitesimal vastness between us inviolate.
As we approach the longest night of the year and the return of the light, many of us around the world may fear this particular winter solstice will be longer, darker and colder than any in recent memory; some of us may even despair of the light returning at all. I confess I’ve entertained those feelings myself.
But perhaps it’s all the more reason to find inspiration in the beauty of wild nature and in the boundless resiliency and creativity of human nature; to hold our family, friends and loved ones all the closer and cherish them all the more fiercely; to embrace our work with renewed dedication and passion, and relish our play with child-like delight.
I’d like to offer this last A 440 Newsletter of 2016 with the awareness that darkness defines light, and in the belief that a bright new day will surely follow even the longest, coldest night.
And so, some year-end good news!
Nerve Chorus Top Ten Release
My search for a turntable on which to spin the 7″ vinyl re-release of Nerve Chorus on the German label VOD has been redoubled now that my debut 1985 cassette-only recording has landed in the Vinyl Factory Top Ten for November:
And again, there’s a FREE autographed copy in it for the first adventurous audiophile who comes forward with tone-arm extended!
Heart Dance Holidays
I’ll close out the 2016 concert calendar with two Trialogue performances at the Mesa Arts Festival on the grounds of the Mesa Arts Center in (you guessed it) Mesa AZ from 12:30-1:15 PM and again from 1:30-2:15 PM on Sunday December 11th; and a Christmas From the Heart concert featuring Trialogue plus a stellar cast of other Heart Dance Records stars at Tucson Premium Outlets Mall in Marana AZ on December 24th from noon-3 PM. Come on out and stuff those stockings with some of this year’s most beautiful sounds!
A Very Merry Myths & Masks
This week I’m wrapping up my 2016 Myths & Masks Artist-in-Residency at Sonoran Sky School: we’re putting the final touches on our Mythic Persona Poems, painting and sculpting our masks, and presenting our community showcases of student work on Friday December 9th. I’m still working on my own mask and poem, but I’ve decided my persona will be The Tarantula of Truth, in honor of this handsome little fellow who boldly strolled through our outdoor workshops at SSky Camp not once, not twice but three times–and you know, the third time’s a charm!
As part of its year-end initiative to broaden the appeal of its programming, Lifetime Arts invited Roster Artists to share some thoughts on the importance of our work with elders. You can enjoy mine and a host of others by clicking on the individual artist photos at:
Shery Christopher captured this impressionistic brush-stroking of clouds just as the setting sun dipped below the Tucson Mountains on Thanksgiving: all natural color and light, with an incredibly detailed silhouette of cholla thorns etched in the lower right–why can’t I do this with my iPhone?!
Poem of the Month
Having started playing drums at the age of three and writing poetry at the age of six, it’s always been self-evident to me that language is rhythm and rhythm is language. This December Poem of the Month is an attempt to bring sound into harmonious balance with meaning, so that one feels the inner music of the words intuitively at least as much if not more than one thinks about the message intellectually. I hope you enjoy reading and listening to it as much as I enjoyed hearing it and writing it down!
Words & Music
and surely the loveliest of words
along with yes
the susurrus of Sonora is
a sibilant source of sustenance:
this morning’s rush hour shush
augmented by a mourning dove’s lament
completes the rumbling harmony
of a distant freight train’s whistling weight;
the glowing hum of sunbeams through the blind
accentuates the silent voices: dust motes rise
through slatted shadow in one swelling choral note
Having wandered in this high desert for nigh on forty years now, I can share from long experience that the season between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice is prime time in Northern Sonora. As much as I’d prefer to be recreating outdoors, an abundance of good news compels me to come inside out of this gorgeous weather long enough to compose and send the November issue of your A 440 Newsletter.
It’s a tad early this month, for reasons revealed anon!
Trialogue (Sherry Finzer, Darin Mahoney & Will Clipman: Heart Dance Records) and What Lies Beyond (R. Carlos Nakai Quartet: Canyon Records) are on the First Ballot for the 59th GRAMMY® Awards. Voting Members of the Recording Academy will find us in the Contemporary Instrumental Album category, and we welcome your support if you find our music worthy of your vote.
Leon Littlebird & Will Clipman
Rocky Mountain troubadour and raconteur Leon Littlebird will bring his Border-to-Border Tour to Arizona for a concert with yours truly in Tucson’s most inspired and inspiring performance gallery Galactic Center on Saturday October 29th at 8 PM.
Tickets are available at the door only and early arrival is recommended!
Becoming One with Your Inner Drum
On Saturday November 5th from 10 AM-4 PM in the Kiva Room at Western National Parks Association in Oro Valley AZ, I’ll conduct the latest iteration of my ever-evolving Planet of Percussion world music workshop: Becoming One With Your Inner Drum explores the uniquely personal relationship between drummer and drum, centered on the concept that YOU are your own most wonderful instrument, and is open to players of all skill levels. An order-in lunch will be provided by WNPA between our morning and afternoon sessions; participants are invited and encouraged but not required to bring a favorite drum or percussion instrument to supplement my pan-global palette–all necessary instruments will be provided by yours truly!
Enrollment is limited and advance registration is required at:
Pursuant to our public workshop, I’ll offer private master classes with a focus on the udu (or to paraphrase Cole Porter: udu that voodoo that you do so well!) in my studio here at Rancho Improvisoso on Sunday November 6th & Monday November 7th from 1-3 PM each day. Enrollment for these intimate, interactive sessions is limited to six participants at $50 per hour and is by prior arrangement with yours truly only.
Please contact me via my website for details and directions at:
RCNQ Video on the Canyon Channel
The brand-new one-minute promotional video for the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet from CFProductions can now be viewed on the Canyon Records Channel at:
*You’ve GOT to check out RC doing the Wallaby Dance!
RCNQ In-Store Event
On Saturday November 12th at 7 PM the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet will appear at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe AZ for an intimate mini-concert and CD-signing to launch their new Canyon Records release What Lies Beyond. Priority seating begins one hour before the show, and these FREE events are almost always SRO, so early arrival is strongly recommended!
For further information please call 480.730.0205
On Saturday November 19th at 7 PM the Q will perform a full concert at the Vail Theatre of the Arts in Vail AZ.
Advance tickets for this show can be reserved at:
And on Wednesday November 30th at 7 PM we’ll perform a full concert at the Green Valley Community Performing Arts Center in Green Valley AZ.
Beginning on Monday November 21st and continuing through Friday December 9th I’ll return to Sonoran Sky in Scottsdale AZ for my 22nd consecutive annual Myths & Masks Artist-in-Residency. We’ll refresh the AiR with two days of nature-inspired outdoor Mythic Persona Poetry workshops at SSky Camp in Prescott AZ on Wednesday & Thursday November 16th & 17th, then return to school for maskmaking, painting, 3D sculpturing and community showcase performances of our completed work.
Nerve Chorus on Vinyl
The delightfully improbable dream of my 1985 cassette-only release Nerve Chorus being reissued as 7″ vinyl on the German label VOD has come true! You can order your copy of this Limited Edition of 444 pressings, with numbered certificate, at:
*Now all I have to do is find someone with a turntable so I can listen to mine–there’s a FREE autographed copy in it for you if anyone out there would like to help me out!
Poem of the Month
These days I feel like Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz: for me, there really is no place like home. This freshly-minted Poem of the Month celebrates the wonders to be found in one’s own yard and neighborhood, and seeks therein the patience, strength and wisdom to finish each day a little better than one started it. Enjoy!
Black Moon sounds ominous, but the occurrence of two new moons in one calendar month–much more rare than the Blue Moon occurrence of two full moons–is actually cause for celebration, as it represents renewal, wiping the old slate clean and being open to the fulfillment of new dreams and possibilities. In that positive spirit, enjoy this October issue of your A 440 Newsletter!
Leon Littlebird & Will Clipman at Galactic Center
Leon Littlebird and Will Clipman first met in 2012 as “Floating Artists-in-Residence” on a two-week Ancestral Voices of the Grand Canyon rafting expedition on the Colorado River. Their simpatico was immediate: not only did the mountain troubadour and the desert drummer become fast friends; they discovered an innate ability to improvise and compose together. This led to a magical post-expedition concert at Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff, followed (perhaps inevitably, given their incessant individual performing and recording schedules) by a two-year divergence. Leon and Will always kept in touch, though, and kept the dream of further musical and spiritual adventures alive. Their duo concert at Tucson’s Galactic Center at 8 PM on Saturday October 29, 2016 marks the resumption of their dynamic collaboration.
What Lies Beyond
The eagerly-anticipated new R. Carlos Nakai Quartet album What Lies Beyond was officially released on September 23rd and is now available directly from Canyon Records at
WLB is also an iTunes New World Music featured title!
The Trialogue Continues
With international airplay now nearing 100 radio shows, the new Trialogue album from Heart Dance Records also continues to elicit rave reviews in the music press, like this most recent one from Blue Wolf Reviews:
Having logged its fifth straight month on the Zone Music Reporter Top 100 chart, the Trialogue will continue on Tuesday October 11th at 7 PM with a private concert at Friendship Village in Tempe AZ.
First-round GRAMMY® ballots will be mailed out on October 14th, and both What Lies Beyond and Trialogue have been submitted in the Contemporary Instrumental Album* category. For those of you who are NARAS Voting Members, we appreciate your consideration, and your vote if your find our music worthy of your support. For those of you who are not, we appreciate your positive energy and best wishes.
*Selection committees have been known to re-assign submissions to different categories; please review your entire ballot carefully, and please vote responsibly!
New #iamHUMAN Videos
As a way of contributing to and collaborating with Roman Orona’s #iamHUMAN video series, I’ve made my studio here at Rancho Improvisoso available to Roman for Tucson shoots. On Wednesday October 5th, Roman will shoot two new installments, one with Tucson bon vivant and cultural personality Anne Geren and one with Native American flutist, composer, cultural anthropologist and performing & recording artist R. Carlos Nakai. As an introduction to Roman’s groundbreaking work, my clip can be viewed at
On Saturday November 5th from 10 AM-4 PM I’ll return to the Kiva Room at Western National Parks Association in Oro Valley AZ for the latest installment of my world drumming & percussion workshop series: Becoming One With Your Inner Drum.
I will also conduct private master classes at my studio here at Rancho Improvisoso on Sunday & Monday November 6th & 7th.
On Saturday November 12th at 7 PM the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet will appear at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe AZ for a mini-concert and CD-signing event in conjunction with Canyon Records Productions. Seating is limited and these shows are always SRO, so arriving early is recommended.
RCNQ will perform full concerts at the Vail Theater of the Arts in Vail AZ on Saturday November 19th at 7 PM and at the Green Valley Community Performing Arts Center in Green Valley AZ on Wednesday November 30th at 7 PM.
Advance tickets for the Vail show are now available at
Advance tickets for the Green Valley show are now available at
My interview with vegan advocate Solvei McKenna was recently published on her new website VeganGreen. This wide-ranging, uplifting and entertaining conversation can be viewed at
Video of the Month
I just received this video clip from the R. Carlos Nakai & Will Clipman duo concert at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch last year and thought you might enjoy a little taste of Awakening the Fire–I only wish the clip showed Jorma’s encore jam with us!
Poem of the Month
I’m at work on a brand new poem about tonight’s Black Moon, but it’s not ready for prime-time; so I’ve mined the archives for this succinctly seasonal meditation on the nature of forgiveness to close your October A 440. Enjoy!
As the sun arcs lower across the southern sky and our little oasis in space approaches its Autumnal Equinox, our thoughts turn to cooler, dryer weather, and all the subtle surprises of Fall in Northern Sonora; yet even in the dog days of summer, as is often the case in Willyworld, there is an array of bright events shimmering on the horizon. Enjoy them all in joy with the September issue of your A 440 Newsletter!
Wilde Boys in Reno
The Nakai, Eaton & Clipman trio will set up base camp in Reno NV on September 13-15 for a series of mini-performances, master classes and lecture-demonstrations at the University of Nevada and in area schools and libraries, culminating with a full concert at the Nightengale Concert Hall on the UNR campus at 7 PM on Thursday September 15th.
tickets & info at http://www.unr.edu/PAS/
POP Goes Scottsdale
I’ll conduct my Planet of Percussion world music workshop on Saturday September 17th at the Appaloosa Library in Scottsdale AZ and again on Thursday September 29th at the Civic Center Library, from 10:30 AM-12:30 PM both days.
contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info
Trialogue + Temenos Quartet Equinox Concert
I’ll celebrate the Autumnal Equinox on Thursday September 22nd with the don’t-miss double bill of contemporary instrumental trio Trialogue from Phoenix and Tucson’s own folk-funk-fusion foursome Temenos Quartet at Monterey Court from 7-10 PM, featuring yours truly on drums & percussion with both bands!
info & tickets at
Healing From the Ground Up with Myths & Masks
It’s been brought to my attention that this benchmark Myths & Masks interview with shamanic healer Leslie Gray of the Woodfish institute, produced by Lori Greenleaf for the program Healing From the Ground Up, is now available on YouTube:
Your personal copy of the Myths & Masks DVD can be obtained at
The official street date for the new R. Carlos Nakai Quartet album What Lies Beyond is September 23rd, including iTunes and Amazon. On that date, you can order your personal copy of the physical CD (or get your digital download with a FREE iTunes Bonus Track) of this barrier-blasting, ground-breaking, dance-floor-filling, trance-inducing new Global Native Fusion™ release at:
Your humble Holder of the Heartbeat has two new titles going to The Big Dance this GRAMMY® cycle: the aforementioned What Lies Beyond with the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet on Canyon Records, and Trialogue with Sherry Finzer, Darin Mahoney & Will Clipman on Heart Dance Records.
As I try to make clear every year, submissions DO NOT equal nominations: the five Nominees in each category will be determined by the first-round ballot; then on to the award itself, to be determined by the final ballot. That said, your positive energy is warmly welcomed even at this early stage of the process!
Nerve Chorus Still Singing?!
In the Completely Out-of-the-Blue-from-Deep-in-Left-Field category comes the news that my very first solo recording, the 1985 cassette-only release Nerve Chorus, is being re-issued as 7″ vinyl by the German label VOD Records. This proto-funk-punk-rap worldbeat project is in post-production pending a late September release.
Video of the Month
Who says it’s always hot and dry in Tucson? This one-minute clip of an epic monsoon deluge here at Rancho Improvisoso proves otherwise!
Poem of the Month
As befits the autumnal mood of the coming season, your September Poem of the Month is a quiet reflection on the nature of love, loss and longing; and on how the essence of emotion is alchemized in the healing crucible of time. Enjoy!
The 8th month makes me think of infinity–the 8 lying down to sleep and dream, so to speak–and of the way each ending is also a new beginning. Here in Northern Sonora, August is a month of intense heat and vast stillness, broken intermittently by earth-shaking thunder, sky-rending lightning and torrential rain: a time of extremes, of endings and beginnings. May you find a middle way between beginning and ending in this issue of your A 440 Newsletter and indeed on the path of life itself: the continuous curve of infinity between stasis and chaos.
Read on: good news lies ahead!
My fellow Canyon Records artist Roman Orona contacted me out of the blue recently about serving as a subject for his #iamHUMAN video project: a series of one-minute vignettes that tell the stories of people from all walks of life regardless of age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, socioeconomic status, belief system or political persuasion–in their own voices and with their own selection of visual imagery–in a way that reveals our core humanity and makes our diversity something to embrace and celebrate rather than to fear and denigrate.
photo courtesy Charly Heavenrich Photography
Naturally, I jumped at the chance to be a part of this project: nothing could be more timely or necessary at this moment in human history than Roman’s vision and message. I hope you’ll view my clip at https://youtu.be/SrThruPAGRA as a gateway to the entire #iamHUMAN video portfolio and to Roman’s creative world.
Rocking the Sanctuary with Sacred Dance
When R. Carlos Nakai invited me to perform an evening of Music as Spiritual Manifestation with him in the temple at Tara Mandala I envisioned a contemplative evening of meditative sound. While there was plenty of that in our Awakening the Fire concert on July 9th, imagine my delight when a message from Lama Tsultrim Allione herself was whispered in my ear right before our finale to pump it up!
We were more than happy to oblige, and closed out a transformational evening of music with an extended dance jam that had the entire packed house polishing the beautiful wooden floor of the sanctuary to a high gloss with their bare feet.
Among the many memorable accolades showered on us at the post-concert meet-and-greet, one stood out for its uniqueness and originality: one of the ringleaders of our “Soul Train Dance-Off” dubbed us The Bad-Asses of Sound–so much for staid and stuffy stereotypes!
Awakening the Fire at the feet of the Golden Tara
RCNQ Tour Dates & Deets
The new R. Carlos Nakai Quartet album What Lies Beyond is finished and scheduled for retail release in mid-August, and the band is hitting the road to bring this incredible music to live audiences and seed the clouds with the first run of the physical CD:
on Wednesday August 17th we’ll be at eTownHall in Boulder CO: tickets & info at www.etown.org or 303.443.8696;
on Thursday August 18th we’ll be at the Rialto Theater in Loveland CO: tickets & info at www.rialtotheatercenter.org or 970.962.2120;
on Saturday August 20th we’ll be at the Four Corners School in Monticello UT: tickets & info at www.sandstoneconcerts.com or 970.243.8497;
and on Sunday August 21st we’ll be at the Durango Arts Center in Durango CO: tickets & info at www.durangoarts.tix.com or 970.259.2606.
RCNQ photo courtesy Shery Christopher Photography
TQ Studio Dates & Deets + Zocalo Feature
Temenos Quartet will return to Saint Cecilia Studios on August 1st & 2nd to record and mix the final four songs for its debut album Forecast with master engineer Steven Lee Tracy. Noted Tucson music writer, musician and impresario Jim Lipson will be popping in to document our process and preview the music for his double-feature article on Forecast and the new Trialogue CD for the September issue of the Old Pueblo’s coolest culture magazine Zocalo.
Thanks to all the wining-and-dining dancers who packed the tables, filled the floor, and made our Ambient Funk premiere at Monterey Court such a funky good time!
Ambient Funk photo courtesy Shery Christopher Photography
While that magical evening is fresh in your minds, mark your calendars for Thursday September 22nd: a Monterey Court double-bill with Trialogue & Temenos Quartet. Yours truly will on drums and percussion with both bands for double the dancing fun!
Tickets & info at www.montereycourtaz.com or 520.207.2429
Trialogue photo courtesy J. Peter Mortimer Photography
And speaking of this year’s break-out contemporary instrumental trio, the latest in a virtual avalanche of airplay, rave reviews, chart placements and other accolades is this excellent exegesis by renowned music writer Bill Binkelman in Insight Magazine:
Sherry Finzer, Darin Mahoney, Will Clipman
Heart Dance Records
Renowned cross-genre flutist Sherry Finzer and guitarist Darin Mahoney made one of the more enjoyable albums of 2013, Transformation, a superb blend of desert ambiance and new age melodicism. On Trialogue, the pair team up with world-class drummer and percussionist Will Clipman and the results are every bit as spectacular as Transformation with the added pizzazz of Clipman’s superb rhythms layered over Finzer’s flutes and Mahoney’s guitars. Here, the mood is less subdued than on Transformation as the music touches on jazz (“Cote d’Ivoire,” “Top Down”), folk rock (“Dark Horse”) and world beat (“Midnight in Marrakech”), among other styles. It’s a superb cruising-down-the-highway listen.
Retailing Insight magazine
Nerve Chorus Vinyl Re-Issue
Talk about a blast from the past? Out of the blue, I recently received a request from Frank Bull at Vinyl-on-Demand, a German label that specializes in re-issuing vintage ’70’s & ’80’s cassette-only recordings, for permission to re-issue my very first solo recording Nerve Chorus as 7-inch vinyl!
After rubbing my eyes in disbelief that anyone still had a copy, let alone listened to it and loved it, I jumped at the chance to have this crazy proto-funk-punk-rap concoction made available to vinyl connoisseurs around the world.
I’ll keep you posted as this totally improbable opportunity progresses, but meanwhile here’s a scan Frank sent me of the original hand-drawn J-card from 1985, which I believe he’s going to adapt for the re-issue cover art. Yikes!
On July 22nd our beloved animal companion and spirit guide Merlyn left his body. He was our Buddha Bear, our Druid Dog, our Little Joy Boy. He lived a full life, loved well and was well-loved. We miss him more than words can say, yet feel his presence every day.
photo courtesy Shery Christopher Photography
Poem of the Month
If you are as weary as I am of the bullying, bigotry and braggadocio that dominates our public discourse these daze, you may find–as I did in writing it–some respite and revitalization in reading the August Poem of the Month: a quiet meditation on the strength and endurance it takes to embody peace and tranquility in a violent and chaotic world. Here’s to potentiality and possibility, in the present and for the future.
And coming full circle (or full figure-8, or full-infinity loop) I’d like to close with a triptych of gorgeous images by Shery Christopher that capture the endless cycle of beginnings, new growth and endings in a uniquely Rancho Improvisoso way.
Monsoon Sunrise courtesy Shery Christopher Photography
New Saguaro Arm courtesy Shery Christopher Photography
Monsoon Sunset courtesy Shery Christopher Photography
~Enjoy the daily miracles
abounding in your own backyard~
On July 20th, 1969 earthlings first set foot on the moon. That also happened to be my 15th birthday, so this event has always been indelibly etched in my imagination as a mythic moment. While the events in your July A 440 Newsletter are perhaps somewhat less momentous, I trust you’ll find them entertaining and uplifting nonetheless!
Music as Spiritual Manifestation
R. Carlos Nakai & Will Clipman will offer a very special evening of music as spiritual manifestation at Tara Mandala on Saturday July 9th at 8 PM:
photo courtesy Robert Doyle Photography/Canyon Records
Ambient Funk Premiere
Ambient Funk will present its premiere performance at Monterey Court on Sunday July 24th from 6-9 PM. Drawing its name from a repertoire that spans the sonic spectrum from cool listening to hot dancing, this versatile trio features AmoChip Dabney on keyboards, saxophones and lead vocals; Johnny Walker on bass and backing vocals; and Will Clipman on drums, world percussion and backing vocals.
More info on this event at:
photo courtesy Shery Christopher Photography
What Lies Beyond
The first new R. Carlos Nakai Quartet album in ten years is mixed and ready to master at Canyon Records. Featuring the aforementioned threesome topped off with a heapin’ helpin’ of The Maestro himself, RCNQ dishes up a delicious menu of global native fusion on What Lies Beyond guaranteed to satisfy the most discerning musical palette. Stay tuned to your A 440 for a late-summer release date and tour details.
photo courtesy Robert Doyle Photography/Canyon Records
On the Charts
Trialogue moved up two spots to #6 on the latest Zone Music Reporter chart:
Music writer Robert Martin has set a new benchmark for in-depth excellence with his remarkable review of Trialogue on Gaia Prime–to say we’re honored, humbled and happy to receive such praise would be a huge understatement.
Producer and show host Ignacio Bahillo of Musicas Imaginadas in Madrid, Spain has played multiple songs from Trialogue on his radio program and now also features the video for the album’s opening cut Cote d’Ivoire on his world music podcast.
click and scroll down to play:
On the Air
Trialogue has now been played on seventy radio shows and counting, throughout the US as well as in the UK, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and Spain, with every song on the album having been spun multiple times–it’s hard to pick one hit, but this reviewer on the Improvijazzation site likes Midnight in Marrakech the best:
This just in: Trialogue will kick off July with another featured appearance on Echoes, the world’s leading ambient music radio show, with renowned producer and show host John Diliberto TONIGHT Friday July 1st:
And the intrepid Sherry Finzer (who doubles as Trialogue multi-flutist extraordinaire and President/CEO of Heart Dance Records) has also placed us on a streaming station, for those of you more technologically adept than yours truly (aka, Professor LoTech):
In the Studio
Temenos Quartet will be back in the studio in early August to finish tracking and mixing its debut album Forecast at Saint Cecilia Studios. The limited-edition six-song EP has sold out, so expectations are high for the complete 10-song LP!
Fall Stage Preview
Trialogue and Temenos Quartet will kick off the Fall concert season with a double bill at Monterey Court on the Autumnal Equinox Thursday September 22nd at 7 PM. Each band will play a long set and then close out the evening with an encore combo jam, with yours truly holding the heartbeat throughout the entire evening!
photo courtesy J. Peter Mortimer
photo courtesy Pj McArdle
Fall Workshop Now Open
Building on the success of last Fall’s Beauty & the Beats world drumming workshop at Western National Parks Association, registration is now open for this Fall’s Becoming One with Your Inner Drum at:
As the new moon follows the full, so your July A 440 Newsletter returns to the mythic moment whence it began. This Poem of the Month tries to recapture the boundless belief and endless possibility of youth that all too often eludes us as we enter the latter stages of our journey on Earth, with a touch of ironic humor to lighten the way.
The Tang of Truth
I sipped the ice-cold Tang of truth
on the evening my fifteenth birthday
as earthlings first set foot on the moon,
and the grainy black-and-white boot prints
left in lifeless dust became indelibly ingrained
in my imagination as a mythic event:
no longer would that perfect cool white orb
make werewolves of mere men or bathe
death-pale vampires in its holy light;
no more would its thirteen ancient iterations
hold sway against the bloody tides of history,
no more its magic work against religion’s curse.
I came of modern age that fateful night
and took a half a century of lunacy
to make my way back to original wisdom.
Tonight, on the occasion of this rare coincidence
between the summer solstice and the full moon,
I’ll embrace the longest day and trace
the sun’s ultimate arc across the desert sky,
greet my muse as she ascends into the gathering dark
and try to recollect the broken fragments of belief.
The cereus will bloom according to their secret plan,
coyotes scat their dissonant celebratory jazz.
The awe-struck boy will live again inside the man.