Flossmoor musicians set to release jazz recording June 7

Thanks to a Flossmoor block party, a new jazz recording is born.

Tom Lockwood and his family moved to Flossmoor two years ago, primarily for the community's transportation features. His wife takes the train to a job in the city, and he travels via the nearby interstate highways to his job as a music teacher at Western Michigan University in Grand Rapids. 

They attended a block party early on to meet some of their new neighbors, and several people recommended Tom introduce himself to another neighbor, composer Rob Ryndak. And Ryndak heard about Lockwood from his family's veterinarian. Soon, the connection was made.

On June 7 their collaboration, "Gratitude," hits the streets and streaming services. A release party is set for 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, at PianoForte, 1335 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are available at www.pianofortechicago.com.

  Tom Lockwood, left, and Rob Ryndak shared the 
  composing duties on their new jazz CD, "Gratitude," 
  which will be released June 7. A release party is set
  for June 8 in Chicago.
(Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The two neighbors share a love of jazz and world music but come to the recording project from different perspectives that complement each other.
Ryndak is a composer first. 

"My identity is wrapped up in composing. I'm a performer, but that's not my focus," he said. "I'm writing all the time. I could probably put out a record a year if I had the money."
Lockwood is a performer first.

He studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston before moving to Western Michigan. He earned his master's degree in performance there, then settled in the Grand Rapids area, where he has been teaching and playing in local jazz bands since.

Ryndak and Lockwood not only share a passion for jazz, but specifically for Latin-flavored sounds. 

Ryndak said he specializes in employing African, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian influences in his music. 

"It's important to me to be involved in other people and other cultures," he said. 

Both have experienced Latin rhythms first hand through travel. Ryndak has visited Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Lockwood worked for four years on cruise ships, which took him to a number of Carribean countries.

Their interests in Latin sounds and culture influence much of the music on "Gratitude," with songs touched by a range of traditions, from bachata to reggae. Lockwood added a dash of funk in places, especially his composition, Jackie McFunk, a tribute to one of his heroes, saxophonist Jackie McClean.

The two musicians split the composing duties. Each wrote six selections.

Lockwood said the recording is primarily a composing showcase, rather than a band-driven work. The instrumentation changes from track to track, depending on the needs of the music.

Ryndak agreed, noting that the album is crafted to sustain audience attention.

"Doing a record is like doing a live performance in that you learn how to keep an audience intact," he said. "You mix it up. I sit in the audience, too, and I know what I like."

Ryndak said the album is very accessible. He said his composing style is naturally very lyrical. But Lockwood noted the original pieces also present interesting challenges for listeners and musicians alike.
"We're trying to bridge that gap between something that's lyrical that anyone can appreciate and something that can make people think a little bit more," he said.

The two brought together strong support from area musicians, including Grammy-winner Brian Lynch on trumpet, Sasha Brusin on guitars, Karl E.H.Seigfried on bass, Victor Gonzalez Jr. on percussion, Micah Rutschman on vibraphone, Ryan Koranda on cello, Jeff Mohle on drums and Steve Talaga on piano.

The CD liner notes were written by Homewood novelist Michael Burge.

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