R. Carlos Nakai’s 5 Best Native Winds

5 Essential CDs for an Icon of Echoes: R. Carlos Nakai

There are a lot of good traditional Native American flute players out there.  R. Carlos Nakai isn’t one of them. Instead, he’s been creating hybrid musics across genres and even created a few genres of his own.  Most of them are based in improvisation whether he’s playing with classical cellist Udi-Bar David from the Philadelphia Orchestra or with electronica artist Cliff Sarde.  For most essential lists, I stick to solo albums, but R. Carlos Nakai is the consummate collaborator, and to leave out his albums with artists like William Eaton and Will Clipman in particular would be wrong. R. Carlos Nakai was voted #8 among 20 Icons of Echoes.  You can see a complete list of the 20 Icons of Echoes.  R. Carlos Nakai will be featured tonight with an interview profile.    He has a lot of albums out.  These are the five I’d start with.
1-Feather, Stone & Light
This was a breakthrough album in many ways.  It firmly established R. Carlos Nakai’s penchant for taking the Native American flute outside of tradition and into world music terrain. Collaborating with instrument builder and guitarist William Eaton and hand percussionist William  Clipman, they sculpt an impressionistic world chamber music, bathing essentially acoustic instrumentals in reverberant atmospheres with processing and synthesizers.  Like a Georgia O’Keefe painting this is a fragile and introspective flower in the desert which Nakai so effectively evokes.

2 Sundance Season
R. Carlos Nakai has recorded many solo Native flute albums, but I’ve always had a fondness for Sundance Season recorded at Lindisfarne Mountain Retreat in Colorado.  Nakai sings chants in his deep baritone and plays flutes and eagle bone whistles in these meditative pieces that seem to merge with the winds of Lindisfarne.

3 Island of Bows
On Island of Bows, Nakai brings Native America to the east, collaborating with some Japanese traditional players as well as the eclectic Wind Travelin’ Band with Hiroki Okano.  Nakai’s flutes mix with the delicate plucks of kotos and more esoteric stringed instruments as well as the Japanese native flute, the shakuhachi.  It all sounds like the perfect haiku.

4 Migration
R. Carlos Nakai and Peter Kater have recorded several albums together, but I think their best remains Migration. Kater hones in on his melodic gifts and sense of ambient landscapes with beautiful lush backings of synthesizers mixing with David Darling’s cello.  Nakai’s flutes weave with the arrangements into intricate canyons of the soul.

5 Our Beloved Land
Keola Beamer is the leading slack key guitarist, and when he teams up with R. Carlos Nakai they tap into a tribal spirit of Hawaii in a set of evocative tone poems. Though most of the tunes are Hawaiian in origin and largely arranged by Beamer, he lets Nakai take them out into the deepest southwest desert, tumbling them through canyon echoes and ancient chants of his own. The rhythms, played on percussion instruments from Hawaii, the southwest and Africa are trance-like and ceremonial.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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