Tommi Zender is a multi-instrumentalist who hails from Evanston IL, working and playing regularly in Chicago IL. Zender wears many musical hats: Singer/Songwriter, Guitarist, Drummer/Percussionist, Producer/Arranger, Ambient Soundscape Improviser, Teacher/Coach, Bassist, Collaborator, Accompanist, Studio Gun-for-hire, Musical Director, Transcriber, and of course music fan. He started out on this career path at an early age.
Zender split his youth between Chicago, Phoenix, & Los Angeles. He took his first guitar lesson at the Old Town School of Folk Music. He attended Columbia College (’93) for Music Performance, ran an independent music store from 1994-2000, and started his own private teaching practice in 2001 (guitar and drums). His first record of original music was released under the moniker Trinkets of Joy “Just Like Mom Used to Make” (1999) on the local Hear Diagonally label (they also released albums by Justin Roberts and the group Frisbie). The album was self-produced, recorded and largely performed by Zender onto a Sony 4-track mini-disc machine at the fabled Sherman Ranch (friends Larry Brown, Chris Greene, & Jonah Kraut contributed drums, sax & cello respectively). There are a very limited amount left available direct from the artist; it is not available digitally and no re-pressing is planned.
Zender self-released “Will Work For Harmony” (2005) under his own name, recorded with Jeff Oliver engineering at Riverbend Studio in Chicago. Tommi wrote, produced, arranged, & played all the instruments except upright bass on one track & invited friends to sing all the backing vocals (Liam Davis, Shelley Miller, Jeff Vezain, Joy Truskowski). The singles “Something To Hide” and “Cinnamon Apple Cider” had a modicum of critical acclaim. (Little known fact: An entire other record of songs also titled “Will Work For Harmony” was done and then scrapped in 2002, with only the song “Madeleine” surviving for the 2005 release, albeit with a radically different arrangement. So that was really a lot of work for harmony, technically.)
Zender self-released “Words Get in The Way” (2009). It’s an album of instrumental ambient guitar soundscapes that were recorded in a log-cabin. The music is used for relaxation, meditation, massage therapy, yoga, and more. It is only available direct from the artist (sorry, no CD Baby, iTunes, Rhapsody, Pandora, Spotify, Napster… dude-ster!)
Zender collaborated with Shelley Miller producing and arranging “Tear Me Down” (2001) and “Morning Somewhere” (2006). He played drums and various stringed instruments for Justin Roberts and appeared on his children’s records “Not Naptime” (2002) and “Way Out” (2004). He also played percussion/drums for Ralph’s World concerts in Chicago and around the US.
Zender has been an accompanist for the likes of Phil Angotti, Congress of Starlings (Andrea Bunch & Aerin Tedesco), Steve Dawson (Dolly Varden), Dag Juhlin (Poi Dog Pondering, Expo ’76), legendary pop-rockers Green, The Bon Mots, Peter Mulvey, Lisa DeRosia & Lush Budgett, Nora O’Connor (Neko Case, Kelly Hogan, Andrew Bird) Ellen Rosner, Happy Chichester (Afghan Whigs, Royal Crescent Mob, RJD2, Brad), Al Day, Ryan Auffenberg, Jon Brion (yes that guy, at The Hideout) Jason Falkner (yes that guy too, once upon a time at NU’s student union) and many more. He has taken part in many of Tom Dunning’s legendary Hoot Night’s at Schuba’s Tavern. It’s not out of character for Tommi to go up on stage unrehearsed with people he barely knows to accompany them on various instruments.
Zender has contributed tracks to tribute albums honoring Kate Bush, Michael Penn, Jellyfish, Roxy Music, Brian Eno, and Squeeze, and played concert tributes honoring David Bowie, The Smiths, The Byrds, Bee Gees, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen and more.
He continues to perform regularly as a solo artist, in collaboration at Old Town School of Folk Music-related events, and also with Phil Angotti Band & his own group Tommi Zender & Friends (which may or may not include the fabulous talents of Dave Budrys, Mark Balletto (Dolly Varden, My Record Player) and Jim Barclay (Million Dollar Quartet, etc, & his own damn self!)
There is a Tommi Zender REVERBNATION page with streaming audio.