A live jazz concert in Los Alamos? Sweet!

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By Special to the Monitor

“It began over three years ago,” Jan McDonald said, speaking of “Sweet,” his first CD release.  “The project grew from a trumpet and rhythm section to friends and then more friends and then a string section and more friends.”

McDonald and “friends,” all accomplished musicians, will perform jazz standards and original compositions from “Sweet” in a Los Alamos concert at 4 p.m. Sunday at Fuller Lodge, accompanied by Dave Anderson, woodwinds and The Bert Dalton Trio.

McDonald, best known locally as “Mr. Mac” and as the director of the Los Alamos High School band program for almost 30 years, is a nationally renowned jazz trumpeter.  Inspired by jazz at an early age, McDonald completed degrees in music in Missouri and New Mexico and later pursued doctoral studies at Boston University.  

While teaching in Portales, an opening in the high school music department brought him to Los Alamos in 1963. During his tenure at LAHS, he received state-wide honors as “outstanding educator” in secondary music and in jazz.

Although now retired from the school district, McDonald continues to teach private music lessons and serves as the musical director of the Los Alamos Big Band. He is also founder of the Black Mesa Quintet and performs frequently as a soloist with the Southwest Jazz Orchestra, Pro Musica and the Santa Fe Symphony.  

McDonald’s credits also include performances with the Santa Fe Opera and eight years as director of the Santa Fe Youth Symphony.

Like McDonald, Anderson is a music educator and taught in the Santa Fe Public Schools for almost 30 years. He plays multiple woodwind instruments, with a professional career that spans 45 years. Anderson has performed with Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Cher and Linda Ronstadt and in ensembles that include the Southwest Jazz Orchestra, the National Dance Institute, New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and the National Flute Association’s Jazz Flute Orchestra.  Anderson is currently producing and co-hosting KSFR’s “Jazz Experience” with Arlen Asher.

Joining McDonald and Anderson is Bert Dalton on piano, the Trio’s namesake.

Dalton’s roots in jazz date back to his childhood in Chicago and his career includes performances with vocalists Anita O’Day and Chris Calloway as well as flutist Herbie Mann.  

Dalton is the music director of the National Dance Institute of New Mexico and most recently has explored Latin rhythms and jazz in the Brazil Project.  

Under his direction, the Bert Dalton Trio has performed for more than seven years every Monday and Tuesday evening at La Fonda.  

A native of Isleta Pueblo, Rob “Milo” Jaramillo is featured on bass. Considered a versatile performer on both acoustic and electric bass, Jaramillo is comfortable playing a variety of music from jazz and rhythm-and-blues to reggae and rock.                         

Rounding out the Trio is John Barlit on percussion.  Now living in Albuquerque, Bartlit studied under McDonald in the Los Alamos High School band before receiving his bachelor’s degree  from UNM.  

He is a classical percussionist with extensive experience as an accompanist and composer for professional dance companies and has worked with composers John Cage, Lou Harrison and James Tenney. Bartlit is the son of Nancy and John Barlit of White Rock.  

With so many exceptional jazz musicians featured in CD release performances and on the CD itself, “Sweet” is “a fine production” that “offers the listener such a cornucopia of artists and styles,” writes Ron Lipka, reviewer for International Trumpet Guild. “McDonald, you are quite a guy!”  

Tickets for the concert are on sale at Brownell’s Hallmark.  CDs will be sold at the concert for $15. Order forms will also be available.