On GRATITUDE, Chicago-based pianist and percussionist ROB RYNDAK and reedman TOM LOCKWOOD present a program of 12 original compositions. The two artists contributed six works each, creating a montage of jazz tunes with a distinctly Latin accent and a few dashes of pop and funk.
Ryndak and Lockwood met when Ryndak’s veterinarian told him that she sold her house to a musician, who turned out to be Lockwood. Ryndak went over to welcome him to the neighborhood, and the two hit it off. Ryndak lost a vet, but he found a new musical compatriot. They were both educators with compatible tastes in music, and Ryndak soon hired Lockwood to perform with his band during the Christmas season.
Ryndak is a composer, pianist and percussionist whose music has been heavily influenced by jazz and world music. This is his sixth CD as a leader or co-leader. He has recorded and played with a long list of Chicago greats, and he’s performed with his ensemble at festivals throughout the Midwest. The youngest of several musical brothers, Ryndak was raised in Chicago’s northside and led his own rock band, playing the drums while still in grammar school. He has always been interested in other cultures, and when it was time to go to high school, he specifically chose to attend a school with ethnic diversity. His first foray into playing different styles of music began when he studied African pop music. He continued his musical growth and education in college where he studied Latin percussion with renowned percussionist and educator Ruben Alvarez at Northwestern University while working on his Master of Music degree. His biggest influence, particularly for Brazilian music, is Jobim, after whom he modeled his compositional and piano styles. Ryndak first started playing music as a percussionist, and his writing is infused with strong rhythmic elements. He still likes to get out from behind his piano to play congas.
Ryndak has strong religious beliefs and a deeply spiritual outlook. As a young man, he was heading down the wrong path until he had an epiphany that turned his life around. He entered a seminary and began studying for the priesthood in the Franciscan order. Although he decided the priesthood wasn’t the path for him, his beliefs never wavered, and he has since become a spiritual counselor.
A versatile musician, on GRATITUDE Lockwood plays tenor, alto, soprano, and baritone sax, as well as clarinet, bass clarinet, and flute. He’s also a bassist but doesn’t play bass on this recording. A Michigan native, he has a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies and a Master of Music in Woodwind Performance from Western Michigan University. He also attended Berklee College of Music. Lockwood has led several CD projects with different bands, and has also been a sideman on numerous recordings. He currently performs in several bands and orchestras, including a couple of salsa bands. He also teaches at several colleges around western Michigan
Ryndak and Lockwood brought on board for this project some of the top players in the region, including Chicago-based SASHA BRUSIN on guitars, KARL E.H. SEIGFRIED on bass, VICTOR GONZALEZ JR. on percussion, MICAH RUTSCHMAN on vibraphone, and RYAN KORANDA on cello, as well as Michigan-based JEFF MOHLE on drums and STEVE TALAGA on piano. Talaga is an old friend ofLockwood’s,and the two of them have been performingregularly together for several years. Talaga plays piano on all of Lockwood’s tunes on this disc, while Ryndak goes back to his musical roots and plays percussion on those pieces.
Also joining Ryndak and Lockwood is Grammy-winning trumpeter BRIAN LYNCH. A Professor of Jazz and Studio Music at the Frost School of Music, University of Miami, Lynch flew out to Chicago to be part of this project and appears on six of the tunes.
GRATITUDE is a project with a lot of heart and soul. The two artists have imbued the music not only with theirexpansive musical visions, but also with their personal stories and philosophies.
Many of Ryndak’s titles reflect his spiritual concerns and outlook. He wrote “Gratitude,” the title tune, as a reflection of his feelings. “When life is difficult, it’s easy to lose sight of our blessings,” says Ryndak. “But when we approach life with gratitude and a positive attitude, our burdens are much easier to bear.” “Interior Silence,” another Ryndak composition, is a modern jazz piece with a quiet, meditative feel and a complex harmonic structure, while the reggae-infused “Dwelling in the Present” is a statement about our “need to be attentive, make eye contact, and communicate with one another without passing judgment.”
Lockwood has been married for 20 years and wrote a couple of the tunes about his wife. He wrote “Two Against,” a funky, Latin jazz number, about his feelings when they first got married. Lockwood was inspired to write the closing number, the ballad, “Jardin á Giverny,” because the iris is his wife’s favorite flower, and it’s prominent on a Monet print his wife owned when they first met.
Lockwood also composed the funk/swing tune “Jackie McFunk,” dedicated to one of his favorite musicians, Jackie McLean. “So Little Time” is a jazz waltz. The title is based on the joke “so many drummers, so little time.”
GRATITUDE is a journey through different musical styles all held together through the masterful writing and performing of Rob Ryndak and Tom Lockwood. It’s a project that is imbued with lush imagery and rife with vivid emotions and spiritual affections.
*studio photos courtesy of Eric Crump/Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle