Many Blessings Update: New Show Announcements, Lotsa Good Press for the New Record 

Hello! 

The last time I checked in on this blog/news feed, it was to let you know about my new album, Chit-Chatting With Herbie. Since then, we played a raucously fun release show, the record has found its way into the hands of jazz fans and critics from around the globe, and 5 months have passed. There's no feeling quite like sending a copy of your own CD to a paying customer across the globe, or reading a positive review of your work in a magazine or website that you used to pore over daily. I've been extremely grateful to have experienced both of those feelings many times since the record came out. 

I'm excited to share with you some of the recent press the album received, but first, I'm excited to announce that we are finally playing some more shows in the next few months! We will play a mix of the Herbie Nichols music from the new album, old Many Blessings favorites, and some newly-composed tunes. Mark your calendars:

Below, click around to read some of the reviews of Chit-Chatting With Herbie. And if you still haven't picked up a copy of the CD, check it out here! And check out my extensive digital liner notes here.

  • “Chit-Chatting With Herbie is a timely and brilliant release that simultaneously highlights the work of an ingenious and unrecognized artist and stands on its own as a provocative and satisfying recording." -Hrayr Attarian, Chicago Jazz Magazine 
  • “While the pieces retain a 1950s energy and style, the performances occasionally burst into avant-garde clack and squeal, and have a thick-limbed, modern energy when they get romping.” “[Gillan] acquits himself with a crisp and precise control of the kit." -Phil Freeman, The Wire (March 2019 Issue) 
  • “With its thoughtful and expansive takes, Chit-Chatting With Herbie is a meaty and meaningful release that does both Gillan and his musicians and Nichols proud." -Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen 
  • "A lurching, bluesy feel with lots of melodic twists and turns. 'Wildflower' starts out like a ballad but quickly becomes a strutting dance number, with Gillan smacking the drums as the horns coil around each other like mating snakes." -Phil Freeman, Stereogum 
  • “Lucas Gillan has taken on Nichols’ compositions in a tribute album that retains all of the truth and mystery of the artist. His arrangements are wing-spreading approaches." -Marc Myers, JazzWax 
  • "The music sounds fresh, contemporary, and joyous! Kudos to Lucas Gillan's Many Blessings as their performances and music will raise your spirits on the dark nights of winter and year-round." - Richard Kamins, Step Tempest 
  • "Gillan’s arrangements stress how potentially orchestral the music is, with its contrasting strains and voicings. And Many Blessings also proves that Nichols’ music is fertile ground for improvisation." - George Kanzler, New York City Jazz Record

New Many Blessings Album Out! Happy Birthday Herbie Nichols! Release Show Next Week! 

Today, January 3, 2019, is the 100th Bitrhday of Herbie Nichols, one of the great under-appreciated geniuses of jazz. In honor of the occasion, my band, Many Blessings, is releasing a tribute album to him called Chit-Chatting With Herbie. It's a track-by-track re-imagining of the 1956 Blue Note LP Herbie Nichols Trio. Read all about our album on the digital liner notes page, and buy it on Bandcamp!

Also, mark your calendars: next Thursday, January 10, we'll be playing a release show and celebrating Herbie's birthday at the Hungry Brain. Show info here. The wonderful pianist Paul Giallorenzo will be opening the show with an all-Herbie set, joined by bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Quin Kirchner. We'd love to see you there!

New Many Blessings Album Coming January 2019! 

Top: Herbie Nichols; Bottom: Many Blessings

I'm very excited to announce that my jazz quartet, Many Blessings, will be releasing our new album, Chit-Chatting With Herbie, on January 3, 2019. The release date is the 100th birthday of Herbie Nichols, the under-appreciated jazz genius who we're celebrating with the album. We will have a release show and 100th birthday bash at the Hungry Brain in Chicago on January 10. It'll also feature a set by our fellow Herbie fan Paul Giallorenzo.

Original sketch of Herbie among revelers in his native Harlem, by Gary Lehman, who is designing the album's cover art

This album has been a long time coming -- I became a fan of Herbie's music some time around 2008, struck by its utterly unique perspective on the jazz tradition and its sense of experimentation, which was at once playful and intellectual. Naturally, I was also drawn in by Herbie's story -- a singular jazz genius who never gained more than a sliver of popular success and died, disillusioned, in 1963, only to gain a small but devoted and near-religious following many decades later. I remember having a long conversation with Ben Allison at the Green Mill in 2009 about our mutual love for Herbie. Ben is an integral part of the Herbie Nichols project, the high-water-mark of Herbie tribute ensembles -- the seeds of inspiration for my own tribute may have been planted back then.

I decided in 2016 to take on the task of re-arranging his entire 1956 album, "Herbie Nichols Trio," for my piano-less quartet (Herbie is a pianist). We performed the arrangements at a Jazz Record Art Collective concert, and it was too much fun to put the music away forever. So, earlier this year, I applied for and received a grant from the Luminarts Cultural Foundation to fund a recording of our Herbie arrangements (thanks Luminarts!) Somewhere in the process of preparing for the recording sessions, I realized that we could align the release of the record with Herbie's 100th Birthday on 1/3/2019, and I started getting even more excited about the project, digging deeper into Herbie's music and story. I just finished Mark Miller's excellent biography of Herbie and have been listening to all of his recordings nonstop. Now, to plan a deservedly raucous 100th birthday party!

Mark your calendars (release date 1/3/19 -- release show/party 1/10/19) and watch out for more good stuff -- preview tracks, artwork, digital liner notes -- soon! 

Peace, 

Lucas

Many Blessings + Ben Phillips Trio inaugural gig @ Cafe Mustache Mon 4/30 

Monday night April 30th, I'll be playing a double header gig at one of Logan Square's coolest and coziest venues, Cafe Mustache. Going on first at 9PM, I'll be playing the inaugural gig by the Ben Phillips Trio, with Ben on trumpet and Jakob Heinemann on bass. I met Ben when we were both grad students at DePaul together, and he's one of the most exciting trumpet players to come on the scene in a while. His music explores some really unique places, using electronics and looping pedals on his trumpet and mixing unique sounds with very accessible grooves and melodies. I hope you can come out and hear it. 

And, of course, I always love a chance to play with my own quartet, Many Blessings. We'll be playing the second set, around 10PM. We've already had two really fun shows so far in 2018, at the Whistler and the California Clipper, so we're glad to be able to bring our music to yet another great venue for creative music in Chicago. As a reminder, if you haven't checked out our new record yet, please do so here

RSVP on Facebook.

  • Mon April 30th, 9PM
  • Cafe Mustache, 2313 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
  • $5 suggested donation

Two Shows in March + New Video 

My original jazz quartet, Many Blessings, released our debut album, Arroyo, back in September, celebrating with a near-capacity crowd for our release show at the Whistler. Since then, the band has been laying low, so I'm very excited to announce not one, but TWO shows in the month of March, at two of my favorite venues in Chicago: March 6 at the Whistler and March 29 at the California Clipper. I'd love to see you out at one or both of the shows -- we'll be premiering some new music and will be excited to play our first gigs of the new year.

In the mean time, take a moment to check out this video from our release show. It's a newer tune called "In the Dunes" -- it's not on the record, but we definitely had fun playing it, as you'll witness below:

New Album, "Arroyo" Available Now 

Hello!

After a decade of on-and-off activity as a band, my jazz quartet, Many Blessings, has finally released our debut album, Arroyo. Click on over to the page I made for the album to read more and stream or purchase it on any of your preferred formats, or you can stream it in the embedded Bandcamp player below. I've gotten lots of great feedback about the album since its release. We played a super-fun album release show at The Whistler on September 19th; the turnout was great and there was crazy good energy in the room. Thanks to all who made it out to the show, and to those who couldn't, check out the album!

Many Blessings Debut Album Release Date and Show Announced! 

I'm very excited to announce that my original jazz quartet, Many Blessings, will be releasing our debut album, Arroyo, on Friday, September 15th, 2017. We'll also play an album release show on Tuesday, September 19th, at the Whistler in Chicago.

This announcement has been a long time coming. I first assembled a quartet called "Lucas Gillan's Many Blessings" over a decade ago. Ever since then, it's been the central creative outlet for my compositions, arrangements, and ideas about leading a band. I feel like we've developed a special group sound over the years that deserved to be documented on a properly-released record. We spent two days recording at Shirk Studios in 2015, and we're finally ready to release the finished product out into the world. So, mark your calendars for Fri 9/15 (the release date, on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc.) and Tues 9/19, for the release show at the Whistler. The album will be released on JeruJazz Records, a Chicago-based label run by bassist Joe Policastro that has been putting out lots of great music lately.

While you'll have to wait until September 15th to hear the whole record, you can stream two tracks below.

 

Gig Alert: Diamond / Gillan Duo at Elastic Mon 6/5 

On Monday, June 5th, I'll be playing a duo set with saxophonist Hunter Diamond at Elastic Arts, as a part of their weekly Anagram Series. Hunter and I started getting together semi-regularly to play as a duo last Fall, and have really enjoyed the process of developing a musical chemistry purely through improvising. We played an improvised set at the Hideout in December (on Hunter's birthday!) and had a blast. Here's a very short clip from that gig:

Earlier this year, I tried my hand at composing a piece for the duo, and it was a challenging but fun experience. Check out the result below:

At Elastic on Monday, we'll play a mix of improvisations and composed music. I'm about to finish grad school, so I've been consumed by school-related concerts and final papers lately. I'm very excited to make some improvised music with Hunter Monday night. We play at 9PM, followed by Stevenson Valentor's Presence Quintet. 

Full event details here.

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!