Chee’s sound morphs, matures in second album


Youthful success is a double-edged sword. Sometimes, you were just the right person in the right place at the right time, covered with this big dollop of charming naiveté you’ll never have again, and suddenly everybody has impossible expectations.

Courtesy photo
Connor Chee’s second album, “Emergence,” is even better than his Nammy-winning debut.

Many are the one-hit wonders featured unflatteringly in the “Where are they now?” posts on Facebook, despite the fact that most of us will never even have one hit.

Well, if you’re a fan of Diné pianist Connor Chee — and if you’ve listened to him, you are — you don’t have to worry about that happening to him. Winning a Nammy for Record of the Year in 2016 at the age of 29 was not his final act. In fact, we’re going to go out on a limb and suggest he start clearing more space on his mantel. Chee’s first album, “The Navajo Piano,” was beautiful. His second, “Emergence,” is a portal to another dimension.

For “The Navajo Piano,” Chee recorded traditional melodies sung by his grandfather, Keith Chee, and elaborated on them. In “Emergence,” he goes a step further, creating his own melodies to tell the old stories or capture the essence of a Navajo deity.

“Resilience,” a bonus track he wrote for the DAPL protest, fits in smoothly, as that story is part of Native America’s continuing struggle. All the melodies reflect a more mature musician and composer, with overtones of joy, power, fear, longing and nostalgia.

The best tracks go beyond emotion, touching a very spiritual place. They take you out of linear time and make you want to go outdoors and meditate.

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Categories: Music

About Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at