My Path to the Keys 

I want to give a shout-out to the immensely talented Matt Kanelos, an NYC multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter, for he’s the accidental reason I accompany myself on the piano today. 

Matt was my pianist in my early gigging days in Chicago. Such a talent and so inspiring. I loved playing with him. Sure, I could play, but mostly I only did while writing songs at home. 

On one gig, he got stuck in the notably nasty Chicago traffic on the way to our standing Friday happy-hour duo gig at the Westin Hotel on…

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My "Day" Job 

People ask me why I don’t perform more in Chicago and central Illinois. Well, as the leader of the Contemporary Jazz Studies (CZJS) program at Lincoln College, most of my days are beyond busy, but in a good way. 

When I was asked to re-imagine what was then called the Jazz Studies program at Lincoln College three years ago, I immediately identified six "needs":

  1. Lincoln College students needed to be connected to the community of Lincoln. 
  2. CZJS students needed to learn how to teach 
  3. That music…

Metal, Funk, Fusion Or Jazz, Drummer John Sergel Says Empathy Is Key 

John Sergel brings an open mind and empathetic spirit to his drumming. Those qualities and yes his monster chops again show themselves Friday night (Jan 24) when Denise makes her return to Nightshop in Bloomington. The University of Illinois senior Jazz Performance major also believes his deep-dive into metal, funk, and other genres keep his approach fresh while working with Denise, and helps bring perspective to his overall playing.

The Denise La Grassa Fan Club (DLaG FC) caught up with Sergel via email…

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Meet Jenae from Hot Sauce Universe  

I'm looking forward to returning to Nightshop in downtown Bloomington Friday, January 24 on a double-bill with Bloomington's talented, soulful husband-wife duo Jenae and Jay Thomason. Their creative, funky, improvisational approach with Jenae on percussion and Jay on guitar has a jazzy quality that’s quite unique. That creativity extends to their staging, which includes a large rug, ottoman, lamp with a scarf, and other accessories. They've released a couple of singles from their new album "According to

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Meet Guitarist John Kregor 

Thrilled to return to the New Rhythm Arts Center in Chicago this Friday (Dec 20). Playing again with gifted John Kregor, the most talented, intuitive and tuned-in guitarist I've ever worked with. We've developed a mind-meld on-stage over the years where we can feel where the other is going before that point presents itself, It's a gift to be able to work with him, and I hope you'll come out to see John for yourself as we tackle the new songs set to appear on the "American Women" album, set for a Fall 2020…

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Songwriting Material  

I heard an interview with Josh Ritter recently. He was talking about "All Some Kind of Dream" and "The Torch Committee" from his latest album "Fever Breaks." Both are overtly political, and a little out of his norm. But he said it's tough to NOT write about what's going on today and no matter what any artist writes, it's going to contain a bit of "the times" it's written in.

Those songs capture how I have been feeling over the past 5 years. Not everything I write is political or about current events, but I…

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American Women  

I took in That's What She Said at The Castle Theatre in Bloomington Friday night. Powerful night as 10 different women shared personal stories of their life, how they made it through often difficult times, and how those experiences have made them who they are today. Many stories were painful, some funny, but all were from what most would say are average American women, some born elsewhere.

Those stories had me thinking about the "American Women" Album + Film project I'm writing. The idea is there are many…

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