Thaddeus Tukes & Co.
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Thaddeus Tukes & Co.

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF | AFM

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2010
Band Jazz Hip Hop




"Thaddeus Tukes: Good Vibes"

When Thaddeus Tukes arrived at Northwestern, he found the music scene disappointing.

So he went to work, co-founding the popular student jazz-based band the Syndicate. The vibraphonist, who also sings for the 10-member groove group, played Dillo Day three times and later launched Ra Sol Greater Minds, a music-content consulting group that aims to raise awareness of student artists. “We’ll record, mix, master, make instrumentals, add live instrumentation — do everything really out of my apartment,” he says.

Tukes, who grew up in the North Pullman neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, joined the Associated Student Government as vice president of diversity and inclusion during his sophomore year and later became a spokesperson for We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern. That experience opened up incredible opportunities — like a behind-the-scenes tour of the White House on his 21st birthday — and exposed the inner workings of the University, for better or worse.

“It really put me on the inside of the University,” says Tukes, a Good Neighbor, Great University Scholarship recipient. “It opened my eyes not only to how Northwestern works but also to how it interacts with race, religion, gender and sexuality. Everything I did after that was influenced by that knowledge.”

After a whirlwind year, Tukes is “working to make sure that Northwestern is becoming a better place for its students,” focusing on issues of accountability to students and of diverse representation.

A jazz music performance major and music criticism minor, Tukes led the Northwestern chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists to student-chapter-of-the-year honors in 2015. He will study new media innovations and entrepreneurship in a new Medill graduate program next year. He’s also releasing an album — a live recording of his senior recital — in Augus - Northwestern Magazine

"Thaddeus Tukes Brings Poetry To The Vibes"

By Howard Reich

Chicago long has been a hot spot for nurturing young jazz talent, new generations continuously stepping forward to build on the achievements of their elders.

In the case of Thaddeus Tukes, listeners have been able to watch — and hear — him develop for several years, the vibraphonist performing periodically while still a student at Northwestern University. Since he graduated in the spring of 2016, he has been playing increasingly prominent engagements.

On Friday night, Tukes led his quintet at Andy’s Jazz Club in a set notable for several high points and a few less inspiring ones. Through it all, though, there was no questioning the fluidity of Tukes’ solos, nor the elegance of his accompaniments.

The evening began inauspiciously, with Tukes leading his quintet in sounds that veered dangerously close to ambient background music, complete with tick-tock rhythmic accompaniment and easy listening, even-keel dynamics. Shortly thereafter Tukes invited the audience to join him in a sing-along, the sign of an artist trying a bit too hard to reach his listeners.

But then Tukes and friends dispensed with frivolities and got down to serious music-making in, of all things, the Roaring ’20s tune “Chicago.” Tukes’ arrangement quoted enough of the famous song to render it easily recognizable to the casual listener, but his rhythmic displacements and unconventional accents gave it a contemporary twist.

The excitement picked up during Tukes’ solo, his playing technically adroit without being ostentatious. Even when he turned to a four-mallet technique, Tukes emphasized poetry of line and warmth of sound (though a passage in which he repeated a riff a few times too many tested one’s patience).

Tukes told the Andy’s crowd that he owed a great deal not only to this long-running club but also to Room 43, a South Side venue where he played his first professional dates as bandleader. With those words, he introduced “Room 43,” a tune from his recent “Thad’s Groove” album. The song’s sly-and-slinky character pointed to Tukes’ finesse as composer, while his solos attested to the clarity and economy of his playing.

For Tukes is not a vibraphonist who produces flurries of notes for their own sake. Each carefully chosen pitch has a purpose in the grand scheme of Tukes’ statements, an uncommon virtue for a young musician on the way up.

“Encantado” stands as one of the most compelling works to have come from Tukes’ pen, thanks to its Latin-jazz rhythmic currents and bebop-era references. For all the intricacies of Tukes’ phrase-making here, however, the crispness of his instrumental attacks and translucence of his tone stood out, with guitarist Peter Lerner echoing this approach.

But the most important solo here came from drummer Alvin Cobb Jr., who articulated complex cross-rhythms with as much precision as musicality. Here was a drummer who can make his instrument sing, the lyricism of his work sustaining listener interest throughout an extended solo. Elsewhere in this set, too, Cobb emerged as a distinctly charismatic player (the band also featured saxophonist Eugene Yakubovich and bassist Evan Levine).

Periodically, Tukes turned to the piano to accompany his colleagues’ solos, most notably in Thad Jones’ “A Child Is Born.” The lushness of Tukes’ pianism, especially in his cadenza, showed sensitivity to the instrument’s tonal possibilities.

So Tukes clearly is on his way, the years ahead likely to provide artistic rewards to both the vibraphonist and his steadily growing audience. - Chicago Tribune

"Northwestern band creates video album to reach wider audience"

Music can be heard at Northwestern constantly, but one band of music and non-music students alike is looking to transform the music scene at NU — and far beyond.
The Syndicate, formerly Syndicate 119, formed in 2013, out of Bienen and Medill senior Thaddeus Tukes’ desire to make music outside of the practice room. Tukes’ classmate and long-time musical partner Kamila Muhammad, a Bienen senior, joined other friends and jazz students and began practicing songs Tukes had written. The band grew from there.
“We opened it up to some other people in the jazz program, and we had our first rehearsal in 119 Regenstein Hall,” Tukes said.
Muhammad said the group wants to infiltrate Evanston and Chicago’s music scene, eventually becoming known nationally.
Recently, the group created a video album called The Syndicate Live to showcase its music and energy. The band recently gave two performances to collect footage for the album, which, rather than being solely based on studio recordings, shows the group in action with a live audience. Alex Warshawsky, a Bienen junior and The Syndicate’s bassist, took the forefront on the project.
“We wanted to capture that fun energetic vibe in the basement for video and recording purposes,” Warshawsky said.
Warshawsky said the band plans to release the album on YouTube to grow an Internet following. He hopes this will help the group break into the Chicago music scene.
“Hopefully that’ll be the Internet presence we need to move forward,” Warshawsky said. “You need something, so hopefully this will be it for us, the beginning of it, at least.”
Since forming, The Syndicate has morphed multiple times as members graduated and the group’s name changed.
This past April, the group competed in and won Battle of the Bands, a Mayfest tradition that selects a student band to perform at Dillo Day. Tukes, who had played on the Dillo Day stage two years in a row, was asked to judge the competition and was therefore unable to perform.
Lead vocalist and Communication junior Sage Ross said the group had a large enough repertoire to perform without Tukes but missed his presence onstage.
“It didn’t feel weird performance-wise,” Ross said. “But it did feel weird member-wise without Thaddeus.”
Despite his absence from the group’s Battle of the Bands performance, Tukes does appear on the new album and is looking forward to the release.
“It’ll be good for us to hear, to keep us on our A-game,” Tukes said. “I haven’t seen all of the footage yet, but I’m excited to see how it turned out.” - The Daily Northwestern

"A glorious, jazzy day in Hyde Park"

Isaiah Collier and Thaddeus Tukes: 3:12 p.m., Oriental Institute. Every time I hear tenor saxophonist Collier, a student at Chicago High School for the Arts, I'm struck by his maturity, self-assuredness and, above all, musicality. He's true to form this time, partnering with Tukes, a student at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music. In Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood," Collier shows tonal grit, poetry of line and a depth of feeling one does not generally associate with teenagers. Tukes plays a sublimely understated accompaniment on electronic keyboard, and when he turns to vibraphone, we hear the breadth of his harmonic imagination, as well as his fluidity with four mallets. - The Chicago Tribune




Thaddeus Tukes is one of the most virtuosic vibraphonist and creative composers in the country. Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune says Tukes “brings poetry to the vibraphone.” His vivacious vibes have captivated listeners around the world. Tukes' music is genre-blurring, drawing influence from jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and gospel. 

During his junior year at Whitney Young High School, Thaddeus was considered the top high school vibraphonist in the state by the Illinois Music Educators Association. As a senior, Tukes was featured at Carnegie Hall with his high school concert band. He then pioneered a jazz vibraphone degree program while also studying jazz piano at Northwestern University, where he attended the Bienen School of Music and Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

Among many distinctions, Tukes is a Luminarts fellow and recipient of the Vivian G. Harsh Emerging Artist Award. He has been featured at the Chicago Jazz Festival, Hyde Park Jazz Festival, and more. When he's not performing, Tukes is an educator, giving master classes and workshops to students from pre-Kindergarten through undergraduate.

Band Members