"Jazz is a uniquely American art form. The Julia Keefe Indigenous Big Band... takes that one step further." -Olympian, 2022
Indigenous jazz musicians, ensembles, and big bands have their place in the contemporary jazz world as well as in jazz history. There were small ensembles and big bands on reservations across the US in the first half of the Twentieth Century and several Indigenous musicians who ascended to celebrity with jazz as their medium. From time immemorial, songs have been the vessels of stories and lessons for the Indigenous people of the Americas. The goals of the Julia Keefe Indigenous Big Band are to celebrate and continue that tradition, to compose and perform new music inspired by traditional backgrounds, and to create a community of likeminded peoples from all backgrounds to uplift the next generation of Indigenous jazz musicians.
Indigenous cultures are not monolithic. There are many cultures within with traditions and songs as old and sacred as the next. The Julia Keefe Indigenous Big Band reflects a wide range of Indigenous cultures, from South America to Canada, Northeast to Southwest. Together we represent a long silenced, a long-forgotten chapter with jazz history books: the participation, contribution, and legacy of Indigenous jazz musicians. A legacy that seasoned composers and arrangers Julia Keefe and co-director Delbert Anderson (Diné) carry forward through original works inspired by songs and rhythms of their Native heritage reimagined through the language and stylings of jazz.
It is a rarity to see a single Indigenous jazz musician nowadays, let alone sixteen on stage at a single time. Even rarer to see female Indigenous jazz players, yet we have Julia Keefe and Mali Obomsawin within the ensemble. The Julia Keefe Indigenous Big Band is both a reflection of a time long forgotten and a window into the future. It is the bridge for all peoples to see themselves on the bandstand regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, or socio- economic status.
This project premiered at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts in May 2022. The premiere performance was made possible with the support of Jazz Road, a national initiative of South Arts, which is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with additional support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Director - Julia Keefe
Co-Director - Delbert Anderson
May 19th, 2022
Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Olympia, WA
May 11th, 2023
Juneau Jazz & Classics Spring Festival, Juneau, AK