Welcome to the internet home of Chicago-area musician Lucas Gillan.  Lucas is an in-demand drummer, educator, and multi-instrumentalist with extensive experience in many different styles of music.

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Luminarts Jazz Fellowship 

Hello! I hope you're having a wonderful 2016 so far. Mine is going pretty well, thank you. I'm hoping to do lots of cool stuff this year (like figure out what Snapchat is, turn 30 years old, and finally try the Japanese restaurant on my block), but I already had a pretty great experience in the first quarter of 2016: I competed in the Luminarts jazz contest and was awarded one of the five $5,000 fellowships. The Luminarts Jazz Fellowship is a program of the Union League Club of Chicago that gives awards to young jazz musicians in Chicago every year.

I got an email about the contest at the end of January and decided to give it a try. I auditioned at the ULCC in February and was very surprised and humbled to have made it to the live finals, along with some super-talented peers of mine. The finals were held at Buddy Guy's Legends on March 9th. Each contestant was required to play one blues and one other selection, so I chose to play a super-slow arrangement of Billy Strayhorn's "The Intimacy of the Blues" and a pretty-up arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Bye-Ya." I got to perform with pianist Ron Perrillo and bassist Nick Schneider, who were gracious in reading down my arrangements even though everyone else just played head charts -- thanks Ron and Nick! If you're interested, you can watch a video of the whole event here -- my performance starts at 1:11:00. Major thanks to the Luminarts Cultural Foundation and huge congrats to my fellow winners.

I haven't decided exactly where the $5,000 will go, but the idea is to invest it in my music career. Maybe I'll put it towards buying Elvin's '70s Camco kit from Steve Maxwell's? I'll need to win a few more fellowships before I can afford that though...

Here's hoping for more unexpectedly good news to share in the rest of 2016!

Fall 2015 Update: Records, Gigs, School, New Bands, a Long Walk... 


A lot has been going on in the past couple of months, and I've neglected to post any news on my blog, so I'm going to take care of all relevant updates here in one fell swoop. Take a deep breath... here we go.

Many Blessings In the Studio


As previously mentioned on the blog, I took my band, Many Blessings, into Shirk Studios in August for two days to record an album's worth of material. We had a blast in Steve Shirk's wonderfully comfy and great-sounding space, and I'm very pleased with the sounds we got on record. As you can see in the photo, I augmented my standard drum set considerably, adding a second (thunderous) floor tom, second (low and muffled) snare drum, a trashy crashy cymbal stack, and some mini timbales that sound like roto toms, 'cause what's a free-jazz drum freakout without some good ol' roto toms? Everybody really committed to making my music sound as good as possible, and the whole experience was another reminder to be incredibly thankful for the dudes in my band (trumpeter Quentin Coaxum, saxophonist Jim Schram and bassist Dan Thatcher). 


Of course, a lot more has to happen before I can write a blog post letting you know about the album's release date: mixing, mastering, producing a physical thing that looks cool, etc. I'm committed to making all of that happen as quickly as possible, so keep checking back for updates.

Terry Bartolotta CD Release
Speaking of updating you about release dates, there is an album I'm involved in that was just recently released: Slow Burn by the Terry Bartolotta Group. This is my 2nd album with Terry's group, and I'm very proud to be a part of it. We had a great time recording at I.V. Labs in March, and the finished product sounds great. You can find the album on iTunes, Amazon and CDBaby, so go on and pick it up! 

We played a pair of CD release shows at Andy's on September 11th and 12th, which were super fun. The group, which comprises James Davis on trumpet, Alex Beltran on tenor sax and Joel Kelsey on bass along with Terry on guitar and myself on drums, plays around town fairly often, so keep your eyes on the Gigs page to find out when you can see us next.

Also, check out this nicely-produced video of us at a recent gig playing Terry's tasty arrangement of the old standard, "Skylark."

Recording with The Right Now

Scenes from the TRN session

I'm fortunate to be able to play in The Right Now, a great original soul/R&B band staffed by some of my favorite people. I'm always excited to play live with TRN, but I'm even more excited to have my first experience making a record with them. TRN has two great records out on the market, Carry Me Home and Gets Over You, and I'm honored to be a part of creating record #3.

We spent countless hours this summer working out the kinks in pre-production, recording demos and arguing over chord changes and drum grooves, and we started tracking with the wonderful Vijay Tellis-Nayak at Transient Sound in September. We got some great sounds recorded. You can read a heartfelt blog post by TRN leader Brendan about his hopes for the project here. The rough mixes are already getting us pretty excited. We should be done tracking by December, and I expect to write another blog post about the CD release sometime in 2016!

Back to School
The other big news this fall: almost 8 years after finishing my undergraduate studies at Northern Illinois University, I've started grad school at DePaul University. I've wanted to go back to school for my Masters for quite a while now, and the time finally seemed right. I'm very excited to be studying privately and in large ensemble with Dana Hall, an amazing musician, educator, scholar and all-around person. So far, I've been focused on studying the great Max Roach, and I'm looking forward to lots of deep-diving into drumming history over the next two years. It's definitely a new challenge to balance my professional life as a freelance musician and teacher with my studies, but I'm starting to get the hang of it, and I'm confident I'll have it figured out by my graduation date in 2017.

LG3 and LCQ
I've recently added two new pages to lucasgillan.com for a couple of projects I've been enjoying lately, and with which I'm hoping to get a lot busier soon: the Lucas Gillan Trio and the Left Coast Quartet. I'll just leave it at that -- satisfy your curiosity by clicking on those links!

The Murphy Sesh


As a freelance musician, it's always fun to land a steady gig with inspiring musicians. I've been fortunate enough to get to play with the great guitarist Lee Rothenberg at Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro every Wednesday since June, as the house band for the jam session. The house set is always a blast, and the caliber of musicians at the jam session is always very impressive. Come on out on a Wednesday, whether you're hoping to jam or just hear some live jazz -- the house band starts around 8:30 and the jam goes until about midnight.

A Walk in the Woods
Besides all of this drumming activity, I checked off a totally non-musical item on my bucket list in August: I went on a solo backpacking trip. I hiked 22 miles of the Ice Age Trail through the Chequamegon National Forest in northern Wisconsin over 2 days. It was a beautiful hike, and I really enjoyed the experience of solitude and remoteness, especially before jumping in to all of the above-mentioned flurry of activity. If you're curious at all about the specifics of my trip, I got the idea from this Backpacker.com article. Enjoy some photos below, and take care 'til the next update.

A boardwalk near the (rainy) start of the trek

This narrow ridge is called an esker -- I traversed a few of these throughout the hike

My home for one night

The end of the hike -- Mondeaux Flowage Recreation Area

We're making a record! And playing some gigs! 

Big news here folks: Many Blessings is gonna make a record. Quentin, Jim, Dan and I will be heading into Shirk Studios at the end of August to lay down the tracks for our debut album. This will be my first real album as a leader (I self-released a 5-song EP of my singer-songwriter stuff 10 years ago but I sold about 20 copies of it and there is no evidence of its existence online), so I'm very excited about this. 

To be sure that we're feeling on top of our game as a group when we hit the studio, I wanted to get us a few gigs in the months leading up to the sessions. I was able to line up some dates at two of my favorite venues in all of Chicago, the Whistler and Honky Tonk BBQ. If you've never seen Many Blessings live, or if you have and were looking for a way to check us out again, these are the gigs to come to! We'll be in super-focused mode for these ones. Your presence and energy will help us get to the place we need to be for recording this album. Maybe you'll even get in the credits on the album, who knows. Info below:

          Monday August 3, 9:30 PM (2 sets)
          The Whistler, 2421 N. Milwaukee, Chicago
          Show info page here

          Wednesday August 12, 10:30 PM (2 sets)
Honky Tonk BBQ, 1800 S. Racine Ave, Chicago
          Show info page here




After the gig, Jim explains to us, using elaborate hand gestures, just how great the videos are going to turn out

Nowadays, a thriving YouTube channel seems to be as important for a performing musician as a healthy discography, and I must confess that my own channel has been anything but thriving for most of the last few years. That is, until now! You may remember my blog post alerting you about my band's gig at the venerable Chicago music venue Constellation back in March. The gig ended up being a wonderful night of music-making, and I now have the professionally-recorded videos to prove it.

We hired an audio engineer (David Zuchowski) and videographer (Joseph Lim) to document the proceedings, and you can enjoy the finished product on, you guessed it, YouTube. So far, I've posted 3 videos, and will be posting more in the coming weeks. Take a moment to watch/listen to each of them below and subscribe to my channel so you won't miss the rest of them. Also be sure to watch the great videos by the other band on the bill that night, Benje Daneman's Life Stories. It was great meeting and hearing Benje, a New York-based trumpeter and composer who has a beautiful sound.


I feel like this tune is a nice encapsulation of the group's aesthetic approach: simple, groovy, a little off-kilter, open for plenty of improvisation, and even a little bit catchy. I named it after the thing I had to do far too often during last year's winter.


This is a favorite of many of the band's fans (and members); if we had singles, this is the one I'd send to Casey Kasem first. I wrote it over a period of a couple of years. It started with a simple gospel-inspired melodic fragment that I couldn't stop playing on piano. It took me a couple of years to work out the rest of the material that would frame that main motive, and the tune ended up going plenty of other places in the process. Once it was finally ready to play, I decided to dedicate it to Thaddeus Tillman, an old friend from my hometown of Tucson who was a great trumpet player and died way too young.

Neptune Morning

This is the oldest tune in the Many Blessings book: I wrote it as a freshman at Northern Illinois University (that would be Spring of 2005, to be exact). Neptune is the name of the dorm where music majors lived, and I decided to name the tune after my daily experience of getting up and entering another day of my college experience, which could be by turns inspiring, discouraging, empowering or devastating. It's also the only tune from the evening's set that's a straight-up swinger.

Update 5/18/15: Two more videos added!

Palo Verde

This song was 10 years in the making. I composed the main 4-bar theme on Christmas Eve 2004 when a good friend gave me a huge book of manuscript paper as a gift, and I wanted to write something on the first page. The tune always stuck with me, after moving from Arizona to Illinois, and I finally expanded it into a fully-arranged composition on the occasion of Many Blessings' first gig at Constellation, in November 2014. I named it after the Palo Verde tree, one of the defining sights in the landscape of my hometown of Tucson.

Little Growl

The initial seed of inspiration for this song was my deep love for the minor 6 chord: my favorite, for its dark complexity and harmonic ambiguity. From there, I ended up writing a simple 16-bar tune with two sections: the first is gentle and a little melancholy-sounding; the second puts some heavy blues lines in unexpected places. I then took the simple source material and wove it into an extended arrangement. While the song is in A minor, it never quite resolves to the tonic chord where you expect it to (a technique shared by Katy Perry and Daft Punk, as pointed out by Owen Pallet).

For all of the above videos, the personnel is: Quentin Coaxum, trumpet; Jim Schram, tenor sax; Daniel Thatcher, bass; Yrs Trly, drums

Gig alert: Many Blessings at Constellation Thurs 3/12! 

We are now in the month of March, which means it's time to take our impatience with sub-20-degree weather to the NEXT LEVEL. Every patch of ice still holding fast to our sidewalks, every snowflake in our iPhone weather forecasts, every morning that we still pull on our bulky winter coats, it all cuts that much closer to the bone now that the calendar shows a month starting with the letter "M." In times such as these, we need good things to look forward to. 

I'm quite happy to announce that I have one such thing to look forward to myself, and you are very welcome to share in my blissful distraction. My original jazz quartet, Many Blessings, will be returning to Constellation, one of my favorite venues in Chicago (and anywhere). We will be opening for NY-based trumpeter/composer Benje Daneman, who will be performing with his stellar Chicago rhythm section: pianist Rob Clearfield, bassist Andrew Vogt and drummer Jon Deitemyer.

Here's the particulars:
Where: Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave., Chicago
When: 9:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12th, 2015
How much: $10

Who: Lucas Gillan's Many Blessings:

          Quentin Coaxum: trumpet
          Jim Schram: tenor sax
          Daniel Thatcher: bass
          Lucas Gillan: drums, compositions

Check out the official event page here.

Gig Alert: Many Blessings at Constellation Wed 11/5! 

Coming right off the heels of a fun night of music and libations at Rogers Park's Lighthouse Tavern in October, Many Blessings will be coming to one of my favorite venues in the world, Constellation! I'm honored to be playing as part of their Sound of the City Workshop series, where a different band each week plays an opening set of original music, followed by an open free jazz jam session. I've always really enjoyed the scene and the music when I've attended the series as an audience member and jammer, so I'm beyond excited to be playing the featured set this week.

I'm so excited, in fact, that I've taken a few days off this past week to stay at home and compose some new music. If you're the kind of person who likes being present at world premieres, then you should definitely come out. The new material is quite different from the rest of the book, partly because I'll be coming out from behind the drums to play cajon and guitar for some of the tunes. It might turn out to be a train wreck, but it'll be a unique train wreck that we will all share together, and that's special.

Here's the particulars:

Where: Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave., Chicago
When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 5th
How much: FREE!

Who: Lucas Gillan's Many Blessings:

          Quentin Coaxum: trumpet
          Jim Schram: tenor sax
          Daniel Thatcher: bass
          Lucas Gillan: drums, guitar, percussion, compositions

Check out the official event page here.

Gig Alert: Many Blessings at the Lighthouse on Thurs., Oct. 16th 

If you know anything about Lucas Gillan, the musician, you know that he gets pretty excited when given the opportunity to perform his original music with the band called Many Blessings. Well, I'm pretty excited right now because I get to do just that this coming Thursday night at one of my favorite bars in Chicago, Rogers Park's Lighthouse Tavern (7301 N. Sheridan). It's only a hop, skip and a jump down from my pad in Evanston, so I go there fairly frequently for great jazz and colorful conversation with the regulars.

We'll be playing two sets of mostly original music starting at 9 p.m. Graciously joining me for the gig are some excellent musicians: Quentin Coaxum on trumpet (whose new album is fantastic), Jim Schram on tenor sax, and Dan Thatcher on the bass. If you're anywhere near Rogers Park on Thursday night, come on out, check out the music, grab a beer, and hang with us. We just had a great 3-hour rehearsal, so the other dudes are almost as pumped for the gig as I am.

Check out audio from Many Blessings' most recent gig here.

Official gig listing here.

Post-gig: Many Blessings at the Green Mill 

As I mentioned in the last blog post, I was looking forward to, among other things, playing with Many Blessings at the Chicago Jazz Composers Collective concert at the Green Mill on Sunday, 4/27. Well, we played the gig, and we sure had fun. Marquis, Jim and Dan played amazingly, of course. I felt extremely grateful to everyone who showed up -- lots more folks than we expected.  

I play many different types of gigs as a working drummer in Chicago, but it's occasions like this that really put in to perspective why you pursue a life in music in the first place -- playing my own music with a group of great musicians for an appreciative audience in a historic jazz club. What more could a guy ask for?

The good news for you, if you weren't there, is that I have audio of the gig online for your streaming pleasure! Click here to listen. Picture yourself sipping a beer at the Mill on a Sunday afternoon, and it'll feel just like you were there.

Double-header jazz gigs 

Back at the beginning of the year, my calendar looked really full but didn't have a whole lot of jazz on it, which made me feel like :/

Well, good news: I've got some cool jazz gigs coming up. This Sunday 4/27, my quartet, Many Blessings, is coming to the Green Mill for its monthly Chicago Jazz Composers Collective series. As if that weren't exciting enough, I'm also playing drums in the other band on the bill, the Terry Bartolotta Group! Check out the Facebook invite for the event, and come out if you can make it. What else says "spring" like a Sunday afternoon jazz matinee?

On May 11th I'll be doing double-duty again, playing with the aforementioned Terry Bartolotta Group as well as the Dan Burke Quintet for a gig at Uncommon Ground in Edgewater. Both groups will be doing all [really good] original music. Check out some videos below:

TBG playing "Triste":

DBQ playing "Tune":

This one's not a double-header, but I'm also really looking forward to playing with trumpet player James Davis at the Whistler on April 30th -- we'll be playing music by the classic Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker Quintet from the '50s. I've been a fan of that group's music for years and it was the original inspiration for the instrumentation of Many Blessings, so I'm pretty excited to have a chance to play it. The Whistler's bartenders will be making drinks from the book Left Coast Libations all night to go along with the music.

Why don't you go ahead and indulge in some great tunes by the GM/CB Quartet?

As always, keep your eye on the Gigs page to see what else is happening. I'd love to see you out there in the real world soon.

Happy spring!

SXSW Wrap-up 

In the better-late-than-never department: hey, I went to South By Southwest [a month ago]! I play drums with Bonzie, an indie-rock/folk(?) project led by singer-songwriter Nina Ferraro. I had fun. 

Bonzie played a total of 5 shows throughout the week, and each of them couldn't have been more different. There was the ready-to-party, bursting-at-the-seams crowd at the official City of Chicago showcase (the audience's size and energy level might have had something to do with Chance the Rapper headlining…), the way-too-fashionable (but gift-bearing!) Nylon Magazine party, a polite, seated crowd in a reverberant room at the Hilton, and a couple of bars, on crazy 6th Street and out in the suburbs, respectively.

Bonzie was received well at every show we played, and even got some pretty high-profile press; one of the polite, seated audience members at that Hilton show happened to be Jon Pareles of the New York Times, who wrote a very favorable review on the NYT blog. Not gonna lie, seeing a picture of me on the New York Times website was a pretty rad feeling. The Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot also had some kind words to say.

Of course, everyone's SXSW experience was affected by the tragic accident that killed 4 festival-goers and injured many more. It really made me angry to wake up to that news on Thursday morning -- to take something so full of joy and life, a music festival, and tarnish it with an act of destructive recklessness. I'm praying for the victims who are continuing to recover, and for people who might potentially be at risk for becoming drunk drivers, that they would wake up to their actions and learn to act responsibly.

Despite the tragedy, the festival hummed right along with very few cancellations or changes. I tried to muster the energy to see bands whenever my presence wasn't required somewhere, and I ended up seeing plenty of good music. On Thursday 3/13, my one whole day off, I counted up 17 bands that I saw. Among my highlights were Ava Luna (who were the favorites going in to the week), Lucius, Damon Albarn, Youth Code, Lunice, Wye Oak and Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. 

Along with the music, I was glad to take advantage of some sun and warm weather, especially on my quick trip to Barton Springs Pool. Unfortunately, I can't say I had any good BBQ while there :(

In other Bonzie news, we're playing a one-off show in NYC on May 9th at Joe's Pub. We've done a few video sessions this year, and I've been pleased to see how they turned out. Here are a couple of vids filmed by My Old Kentucky Blog in Indianapolis:

And here's an interview/performance we did for Consequence of Sound: