Thursday, August 24, 2023

Tu-Ner to bring its adventurous sound to Reggies in Chicago

 Band photo by Julia Hensley



Trey Gunn is the type of musician who is always up for a new challenge.

Gunn and Pat Mastelotto, known for their work in King Crimson, are members of the band Tu-Ner alongside touch guitarist Markus Reuter. The band will perform at 8 p.m. Aug. 26 at Reggies, 2105 S. State St., Chicago.

Sammy Boller and Greg Howe are also on the bill. Tickets range from $25 to $35, available at

Tu-Ner is touring in support of its debut double album, "T-1 Contact Information," which was released on Aug. 14 on Gunn's record label, 7D Media. I had the chance to talk to Gunn about the project and tour.

Q – “T-1 Contact Information” came out on Aug. 14, the same day the tour began. How has the tour been going?

Yeah, that's correct. We had a couple of kind of warm up gigs. We participated in this King Crimson "Three of a Perfect Pair" camp up in Woodstock the week before that. 

We were up there with 120 musicians doing workshops and stuff. And then we do kind of an informal concert there and joined Adrian Belew and Tony Levin to do a big show at Bearsville two days earlier.

Q – How did that go this year?

It was great. This is my third year and it was completely sold out. There were 120 people playing and singing and doing all sorts of stuff all day and all night long.

These are all musicians and actually they spend the good part of the year rehearsing for it.

Q – This is the most recent incarnation of Tu-Ner. What do you enjoy about working with Pat and Markus?

Well, I've been playing with Pat for 30 some years now. It's just a very playful experience playing with Pat.

We're constantly teasing each other and trying to throw each other off and having fun on stage. I've known Marcus almost that long, but we haven't played together as much.


We did some duo concerts out in Seattle a couple of years ago and have done a lot of recording together.

Q – The album was recently released on 7D Media, a record label that you founded in 2006. In starting the label, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

I've been running that label for a long time. I kind of started it with just my own releases and it has grown and grown.

It's not easy being a small label, but it works. And I'm seeing now the Tu-Ner record has been number one on the prog and experimental charts on Bandcamp for like a month now.

Q – Obviously that shows that people are interested in hearing this album. Does that make you happy that it is doing so well?

Yeah, it makes us very happy. And the record is very strange and unusual, so that makes us even more happy.

Q – So obviously there are people that want to listen to that type of music. There's a lot of artists out there that kind of copy each other, so I guess people appreciate something that's kind of different.

Yeah, this is not copying anything. It's very, very weird music.

And it's like that live too. We keep surprising each other. 

Last night, we were in Buffalo. About half the show is improvised and Pat surprised us by going in a completely different direction last night.

Q – Is that kind of a thrill to go off in your own direction, so much that you're even surprising your fellow band members?


Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, that's real creative play when something happens that no one planned.

Q – I understand you first met Robert Fripp when he was teaching guitar in the 1980s. Did you ever imagine at that time that you would someday work with him?

No, no at all. I had no idea what to expect.

I was surprised when he asked me to work with him the first time and every time he's asked me to do a project with him, I've always been surprised.

Q – I'm sure there's a long list, but what kinds of things has he taught you?

Basically how to work as a musician. I'm not talking about professionally, but how to practice and how to play and how to pour your work into it.

No matter how much you prep, when you go on stage, it's completely different than practicing or prepping. It's a completely different experience.

Robert is very, very good about being open to what happens on stage.

Q – I know your primary instrument these days is a Warr guitar. What do you like about the instrument?

It's a tapped guitar, so it's completely all fingers of both hands tapping on the strings on the fretboard.

And it has five bass strings and five guitar strings. So it's kind of like playing the inside of a piano.

It lets me do pretty much anything you can do with any stringed instrument. I can do it all, so that's why I love it.

Q – Besides working with Robert Fripp, you’ve worked with many other musicians over the years, including John Paul Jones, Vernon Reid and Eric Johnson. Is it flattering to be such an in-demand musician? 

Well, I guess I would say it's flattering to have been able to play with those guys. I feel like I played at their level, so that was great.

Q – Do you learn new things by playing with different musicians?

Everyone you play with is completely unique. You have to be on your toes and be ready to learn how you're going to blend with that particular musician. Every relationship is unique.

If there is a different guitar player that night, everything changes. And you have to adapt.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Chicago singer-songwriter Nathan Graham returning to The Venue in Aurora


His soulful vocals and introspective lyrics grab your attention right away.

After playing last August at The Venue's Americana Music Fest, Chicago singer-songwriter Nathan Graham will return to The Venue on Aug. 19 as part of a show with Alice Wallace, who in 2017 was named the female vocalist of the
 year at the California Country Awards.

The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are available at The Venue's website, The Venue is located at 21 S. Broadway Ave. in downtown Aurora.

Graham's debut album, "Saint of Second Chances," is set for release on Oct. 20 on Chicago-based Pravda Records. He performed several of the songs off the album during his show last August.

I had the chance to talk to him about the new album.

Q – Of course, your debut album is being released on Pravda Records, which is one of Chicago's longest running independent record labels. Are you pretty happy about that?

I am, yeah. We tried to do everything in Chicago.

Everything was kind of done with Chicago artists, photographers, and the people who did the mixing and mastering and all that stuff. You don't see a lot of Americana records or even records period being made in Chicago any more, let alone being promoted by a Chicago-based label.

We can still make records here in Chicago. You don't have to outsource to Nashville or Austin.

Q – It does seem like everyone likes to assign a genre to an artist. Is it hard for you to describe your music to people? It's not like totally blues, it's not totally soul and it's not totally Americana. It's kind of like a combination of all three.

Yeah, that's the thing. When I listen to Joe Cocker or Nathaniel Rateliff, I think that's kind of the true Americana. Because I think it's a blending of all that music.


My opinion of Americana music is that it connects blues, gospel, rock and country. I think that this album does that in kind of a really cool way. 

And I'm proud of that. I think I would describe it as Americana and soul music. That's really what it is.

Q –  And it seems like there is a meaning behind the album's title. Is there?

It's really about those times in your life when you kind of screwed up. And your friends still ride with you.

They tell you that it's alright, that you're going to bump your head a lot of times in life and do things that you aren't necessarily proud of, but that there's a way back. There's a way back to yourself, there's a way back to loving yourself and other people and allow people to love you.

That's kind of what it's about.

Q – It seems like you really want to connect with people through your songs and through shared experiences. Is that what you're hoping your music does, to show people that you're not in this alone?

I think that's why people listen to music and consume art and go see movies and plays and things like that.

We all have happy joyous times and we all have really low times. And it's nice to know that you're not the only person going through this. 

All the music that I've ever listened to has definitely made me feel less alone.

Q – What was you vision for the album and did the finished product fulfill your vision?

Yeah, it did actually. One of my favorite albums is Joe Cocker's "Mad Dogs & Englishmen." 

I love that album so much. It's kind of like that whole album tells a story. 

You can hear all the instruments and everything has its place. And all the voices have their place and nothing really gets lost.

It kind of exceeded my expectations. I thought it was going to sound one way and it came out sounding way better than I ever imagined.

Q – I was reading a little about your background and I understand you started out backing blues singers at Buddy Guy’s Legends and Kingston Mines. Who did you you perform with and what did the experience teach you?

It taught me that less is more a lot of times. When I first started playing music, I loved pedals and effects.

I had this giant pedal board. And I remember being at a club and I'm watching these legends of blues music and they're expressing so much more out of so little.

They have their guitar and their voice. Sometimes they would just have an acoustic guitar and their voice.

Same thing with songwriting. They would take a simple concept and they would make you feel so good or connect you to them with their story.

And it showed me how to perform and hold a crowd's attention. They pulled the audience into the performance.

Q – Who are some of the people you performed with?

Carl Weathersby and Fernando Jones. I did a small set with Buddy Guy.

In college, I got to play some songs with Koko Taylor, which was amazing.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Talented musicians team up as part of second annual Rita's Roast fundraiser


Those who would like to hear some incredibly talented musicians and support a great cause at the same time would do well to attend Rita's Roast second annual family fun festival fundraiser.

The event will take place from 1 to 8 p.m. Aug. 12 at the Aurora Athletic Club, 550 Clearwater Drive, North Aurora. Tickets are $15 for those ages 5 to 11 and $25 for those 12 years old and older.

Those 4 years old and under are free. The day will feature the duo of Noah Gabriel and Ryan Carney from 1 to 2 p.m., Dave Glynn from 2 to 3 p.m. and Double Shot from 5 to 8 p.m.


Having personally heard most of these musicians in a live setting, trust me when I tell you that the day will offer plenty of musical treats.


And the cause is a worthy one as well. RITAS stands for Restoring Inmates to America's Society.

The mission of the Aurora-based nonprofit organization is to help ex convicts reintegrate back into society as productive citizens as well as offer support to their families.

The event will also feature food provided by Bearded BBQ, a beanbag tournament, kids games, balloon animals and a cash bar. To purchase tickets, go to or call RITAS Ministry at (630) 966-0252.