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Spring 2017 Update: School, The Right Now, and a long-time-coming debut 

Hello there! 

Though it has been quite a while since I wrote a news update here, that's not for lack of activity. There's been plenty going on in my little corner of the music world, and I thought now might be a good time to let you all in on it.

Most of my mental focus lately has been consumed by school; I'm set to graduate from DePaul University with a Master's in Jazz Studies in about a month. That means I'm in the thick of writing papers and rehearsing for end-of-the-year concerts. One thing I already got out of the way, though, was my graduate recital. It was a lot of work, and a lot of fun: I arranged four pieces as tributes to some of my favorite drummers, and also performed four pieces with Many Blessings. You can watch the video of my Max Roach tribute, a mash-up of Ko-Ko and Cherokee, below:

Another highlight of early 2017 was the release of The Right Now's debut album, Starlight. I have been subbing on and off in TRN for about a decade, but I only officially joined the band in 2014, so this is the first album that I've been a part of -- I play drums on all 10 tracks, and even have a co-composing credit on a couple. It has been a long, but very fun and rewarding process to work on this music for the past few years and to finally see it get out into the world. On the day the record was released, it was featured on NPR's Sound Opinions, as a recommended "buried treasure". Check out the podcast here! We went on a super fun 10-day tour in late March, and played a sold-out record release show at Chicago's Hideout Inn in April. Also, we just released the first music video from the record, which we filmed entirely on the first day of our tour. Check it out below; the whole thing kicks off with a close-up shot of a drum fill by yrs truly:

And lastly, I'm working on releasing the debut album by my jazz quartet, Many Blessings. All the important stuff is done: I have the CD's in my closet and I'm super-duper proud of how they sound and look. Now, I have to do the work of proliferating it out into the world, which will happen in late Summer/early Fall (exact date TBD). I'm happy to announce that it will be released on JeruJazz Records, a local Chicago label that has been putting out some exceptional music lately. Check out the album's cover art, and a video of one of our newer tunes (which is not on the upcoming record), below:

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 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 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

New[ish] Year Update 


Thanks so much for taking the time to visit. A quick update on what I've been up to so far in the first month of 2014, and what I'll be doing in the coming months:

I started off the new year by drumming and music-directing in the worship band for the Intervarsity Staff Conference in St. Louis. Intervarsity is a campus ministry that has had a huge impact on the lives of countless college students over the past century, and I was honored to be a part of their triennial staff conference -- it was a fun and surprisingly relaxing week of worship and fellowship.

The team at Intervarsity Staff Conference

The Right Now
I've been playing a lot lately with excellent Chicago soul band The Right Now. We rang in the new year by opening for the legendary Bernie Worrell at a free New Years Eve show at Reggie's in Chicago. Later in January, we took a trip to Cincinnati to play a couple of gigs and record a 7-inch single at the cozy confines of Colemine Records, an awesome funk/soul label in Middletown, OH. Listen to some of Colemine's other tasty releases on their YouTube Channel. Here's some behind-the-scenes Instagram footage of the session! Coming up, I'll be doing some more recording and touring with TRN.

Tracking with The Right Now at Colemine Records

Hush Train
Most every Wednesday you can find me playing with a new soul/R&B cover band called Hush Train at the Back Room, a swanky joint in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood. Hush Train is sort of a spin-off of The Right Now, sharing some of the same members and repertoire, but focusing exclusively on playing covers -- everything from Stevie, Otis and Aretha to Rick James, Mary J., Cee Lo, and even some Zeppelin. It's a super-fun band, and we're getting better every week. Come out to the Back Room any Wednesday, or check us out at our new "Sinful Sundays" series, which happens the last Sunday of each month at the Double Door and features super-funky DJ sets by DJRC.

I've also been staying busy with Bonzie, the project of 18-year-old singer-songwriter Nina Ferraro. I've been playing drums with Nina since she was 15 (!), and it's been amazing to see how far she's come since then. Not only did Bonzie release a full-length album in August (Rift Into the Secret of Things), but we've also been hitting the road, touring with Ivan & Alyosha back in November and making it to Indianapolis for a show and video shoot in January. In March, we're doing a run of dates opening for Cayucas right before heading down to Austin for SXSW. I'm super excited to finally experience for myself the phenomenon of South By Southwest, having spent way too many hours reading about other people's experiences there. We're already confirmed for 3 shows at the fest, including a Chicago-centric showcase headlined by Chance the Rapper. 

My stripped-down setup for Bonzie's My Old Kentucky Blog show in Indianapolis

What about jazz, you ask? Well, my group Many Blessings, hasn't played together in a while, but that's about to change! We're set to play at Jerry's Sandwiches' Ears & Eyes music series on Tuesday, March 18th. We're going to be debuting some new music, too, so don't miss it. Also, I've played a few ridiculously fun gigs in January with a new group featuring guitarist Nate Baker and bassist Charlie Kirchen; we're planning on playing together much more this year. I'm also looking forward to June, when I'll be playing in the Terry Bartolotta Group at the Elkhart Jazz Festival in Elkhart, Indiana!

On top of all this playing, I spend most of my days teaching other folks how to make music. Last summer, I was hired to teach piano, guitar and drums for Piano Power, a great company run by pianist, songwriter, funnyman and educator Abraham Levitan. I'm also very happy to be back at Wheaton College this semester, where I'm an adjunct faculty member, teaching jazz drum set to a talented and hardworking group of students.

As always, check out the Gigs page for details about where I'll be when, and come out to a show if you're so inclined. Have a great day now!