TUSCON, Ariz. - In the excitement over the announcement of the American Indian nominees for the 45th Annual GRAMMY? Awards one fact has escaped widespread attention. The same artist is responsible for two of the five albums competing for this year's Best Native American Album.
"Sacred Season" by Redheart and "Faith in the House" have a single instrumental prodigy in common - Vince Redhouse. Both albums were released in 2002 by SOAR Records.
"When I saw both albums up for the award I started to cry. I know the purpose of my life and talent and that is to inspire Indian people to believe that they are a special people, uniquely gifted as the Host nations for this land," said Redhouse in a Jan. 17 interview with Indian Country Today.
"It's very rare for one artist to be nominated for two different albums in the same year. In fact, I think this is the first time it has happened, in the Native American category at least," said Tom Bee, owner of SOAR records and winner of the first Native American GRAMMY Award
That's a pretty safe bet to make considering that this is only the third year that Native American music has had its own category.
The committees that review and nominate individuals for the Best Native American Album award seem to have a marked preference for highly traditional recordings. To the credit of the GRAMMY staff, the word "traditional" is taking on broader meaning daily.
While Vince Redhouse can be considered 'traditional' because he is a remarkable American Indian flutist with deep-rooted Navajo values, he is also a jazz musician who plays a saucy tenor sax, dreamy acoustic guitar, C flute, pow wow drum and percussion.
Redhouse's albums can also be categorized as contemporary Christian. The album "Sacred Season," co-written and performed with Abraham Marcor, is comprised of spiritual Christmas songs arranged with American Indian flare. Both albums have uplifting and joyous qualities. They leave the listener with a soaring heart.
The 47-year-old Redhouse, Navajo/Filipino, has been performing professionally nearly his entire life except for the 10 years he served as a pastor. "I believe spiritual gifts are carried from generation to generation in families - as are traits and characteristics - and I believe this has greatly influenced me in my walk of faith" said Redhouse.
"? My Grandfather Hosteen Redhouse [was] attending a revival service that his oldest son Scott Redhouse was preaching ? Hosteen [was] a renowned Medicine man on the Navajo reservation. Our clan is known for this," said Redhouse. "Scott was supposed to carry on the tradition, but instead he became a Christian and an evangelist.
"Recently I was in a church service and I was moved by the impression of my two uncles, Scott and Paul, who were preachers who have left us, laying their hands on my shoulders saying 'They had prayed for this moment' when one of the family would surrender to the burden for Indians in this land. I wept."
Family has been a driving force for the Redhouses and this particular family has no shortage of musical as well as spiritual talent. Vince has two older sisters Mary and Charlotte, and three younger brothers, Tony, Lenny and Larry. Together with their father Rex, they formed the Redhouse Family Jazz Ensemble and released the album 'Urban Indian,' (1997, Canyon Records) that impressed music critics nationwide and received a Native American Music Awards nomination.
Mary and Tony Redhouse have both released albums in conjunction with other musical greats such as multiple GRAMMY nominee R. Carlos Nakai and NAMMY winner Robert Tree Cody.
"My mom had some musical background and there were always musical instruments around the house to play on. My dad had friends over all the time singing traditional songs as well as records of artists like Ed Natay," Redhouse said. "Later on my dad formed drum groups [and] he still has practice every Friday evening. He's 84 years old!"
He continued, "I also think that playing music as a family was a way of establishing community because there were no other Indians around where we lived. It was our way of having safety in numbers."
Vince was raised in the Bay area of California and didn't have a lot of exposure to American Indian culture. "I also remember my dad taking us to Oakland, Calif. ? and the next thing we knew we were on a ferry across the bay. It was the second day that the Indians took over Alcatraz Island. It was freaky, but it was like a pow wow. I was around people that looked and acted like me. It felt really good!"
The Redhouses moved to Tucson, Ariz. when Vince was 17 where he went to community college and a private music school where he learned classical music and performing arts. He also began playing jazz with a local big band. "These two musical experiences really formed my concepts of music style and disciplines which would eventually help me to be a soloist with the Air Force Band at the age of 19-years-old on the tenor sax and the open hole (steel) flute," said Redhouse.
"Redhouse is very good with the sax. - kind of like Kenny G - it made his transition to flute very easy," said Bee.
"My formal training in jazz and classical music on the woodwind instruments has enabled me to be able to read music on the Native Flute. I spent two years developing a scale on the Native Flute so that I can play any music in any key on one flute - play jazz, traditional, etc," said Redhouse. He hopes to have the chance to teach the flute to Indian children someday.
Redhouse has been a professional housepainter for many years and was working on a ladder staining a staircase when he was called for this interview. "I really hope that I'll be able to devote all my efforts to making music in the future," he said.
Redhouse has plans to tour throughout the southwest at Borders Books, Barnes and Noble and Virgin MegaStores after the GRAMMY awards are over. He is working on a new solo album that will be released in the spring. It will include two songs with the entire Redhouse Family performing and will be mostly original material.
Later this year, Redheart will record a classical album with pieces by Debussey and Ravel played on the Native Flute. "It's gonna turn the music world on its ear!" predicted Redhouse.
Visit www.soundofamerica.com, write to Sound of America Records, 5200 Constitution Ave., N.E., Albuquerque, N.M. 87119 or phone (800) 890-SOAR for more information.