the six siblings of Arizona's Redhouse Family if they are the Native
American equivalent of Michael Jackson's Jackson Five family and
Tony Redhouse acknowledges, with a smile: "We have some of the same
dynamics in that our families were both raised around music and
we all began performing at a very early age." Early, as in 5 when
Tony was handed a drum and propelled onto the stage7 when
brother Vince took up woodwinds9 when brother Larry added
Known as Arizona's American Indian First Family of Jazz, the
Redhouse Family Jazz Band and Dancers consist of four brothers and
two sisters capable of a panoply of performances as musicians, composers,
vocalists, flutists and dancers.
Music has been a central theme in the life of Vince, Mary, Charlotte,
Lenny, Tony, and Larry Redhouse from the time maternal grandmother
Concepcion played honky tonk piano entertaining GIs in the Phillipines
to their father, Rex, frequently singing traditional Navajo squaw
dance songs in his home using drums that were handmade in his backyard.
While the siblings earn daily bread in various occupations as
teachers, healers, and artists, they perform independently and collectively
in sets that can best be described as Indian Eclecticmusic
influenced by Latin, fusion, rhythm and blues, funk, folk, contemporary
jazz, and traditional Native American sounds and spirituality.
A recent performance began with 86-year-old family matriarch,
Maria, signing the Lord's Prayer in Navajo as daughter Mary (who
sings in five octaves) did vocal honors. From there the diversity
of talent was displayed with Charlotte pounding out her version
of Aretha Franklin's Chain of Fools, Vince setting aside his tenor
saxophone for a traditional native flute in a paean to his father,
youngest family member pianist Larry leading the group in some original
scat jazz interpretations, and Buddy Rich-influenced brother Lenny
going into orbit with an extended drum solo.
Recognition of their ability to make outstanding musical memories
abounds with Grammy nominations and receipt of Native American Music
Awards. Mary and Vince are Grammy nomineesVince nominated
twice in 2003Mary with a nomination in 2005. Tony is a two-time
"Best New Age" NAMMY recipient. Larry is headed in the same direction,
writing most of the titles on the family's Urban Indian CD, and
performing at the Kennedy Center Jazz Club in Washington and the
Grenoble Jazz Festival in France.
"It's easy to introduce tunes I've written and then let each
family member interpret the compositions with their own unique playing
styles," says Larry. "Individually, each of us is a strong musician
or vocalist so I've felt confident to let the creative processes
Sister Mary says there is no actual leader of the band and family
dynamics don't play a part when the Redhouse clan hits the stage.
"In a sense, we're like a group of warriors, jointly and individually
scoping out what needs to be done and what direction we need to
go. We stay on task and our collective goal is the presentation
of intense, quality music. Each member brings strength to the whole.
Yes, we are six siblings, but when we assemble and arrange our music,
we are fully aware of, and allow the use of, each individual's strengths
as musical color to our sound. No one member needs to toot his or
her horn about what they do because we each bring a lot to the musical
buffet and share it!"
Speaking with discipline and conviction, traits that serve her
well as a teacher of music at San Xavier Mission Indian School,
she adds: "Our band is an example of how we adjusted to cultural
differences, overcame difficulties, and empowered ourselves by developing
our God-given talents to inspire others through our musical careers."
The musicality of the Redhouse family puts them in a class of
their own, augmented by a collective belief in the accompanying
concept of spirituality.
"Music is more than what we hear, music felt at a deep level
is a spiritual event," says eldest brother Vince. "Navajo people
have always been regarded as spiritual people and through the generations
of our family, these spiritual gifts have been down to us. Music
is one of the greatest expressions of spirit and heart and healing
and it's a gift I am blessed to share."
Youngest brother Larry nods his agreement and notes: "Music
and creativity and spirituality are lifetime journeysand with
the Redhouses, those qualities represent our family experience."