Sonic Journey: Gastón Reggio Ventures From "Michigan" to North Carolina on New Jazz-Fusion Album


Gastón Reggio wears a green hat and white shirt while holding a cymbal. He stands in front of a mural.

Gastón Reggio chronicles an inspirational sonic journey on his new jazz-fusion album, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Gastón Reggio.

For Gastón ReggioMichigan represents the ideal name for his second full-length album.

The Uruguayan jazz composer and multi-instrumentalist penned most of the album’s tracks while living in Ann Arbor and wanted to capture those experiences from 2019 to 2021.

“Each song has and [strives] to tell a story about things that happened during that time. Particularly, I was looking for an [album] name that worked well in English and Spanish,” said Reggio, who previously drummed with Chirp and is now based in Durham, North Carolina.

“My producer Rodrigo [Cotelo] … mentioned naming the album after the song ‘Michigan’ because it summarized my [time] here and served as the basis for some of the stories that are [sonically] told through my songs.”

On Michigan, Reggio chronicles an inspirational sonic journey filled with jazz, prog rock, and world music influences. The album starts in the Great Lakes state and whisks listeners across the Appalachians to find new musical adventures in North Carolina.

“I just let the ideas for the songs come without any restrictions, and I like to combine all of my influences to create a [personal] way to express myself through music,” he said. “I hope listeners realize the depth and honesty of this music; it’s a part of me, and if you listen to it, you will get to know me a little bit more.”

To learn more about Reggio, I recently spoke with him about growing up in Uruguay, studying music and jazz drums in Brazil, coming to Ann Arbor and joining Chirp, relocating to North Carolina, working on Michigan, and preparing for several upcoming live shows.

Q: How are things? What’s been inspiring you lately as a composer and musician?
A: It’s been a good year for me so far, and I started it by moving from Raleigh to Durham, North Carolina. I’ve been playing with some local bands, rehearsing a lot with my group, and listening and studying candombe, an Afro-Uruguayan rhythm. It's a huge source of inspiration for me. While I’ve been studying candombe for over a decade, I’ve been focusing on it more lately.

Q: How did your musical journey start while growing up in Canelones, Uruguay? When did you start playing drums, guitar, and other instruments?
A: It started by just listening to music. My older brother had a bunch of national and international rock cassettes and CDs, including Ten by Pearl Jam and Rocanrol del Arrabal by Uruguay’s La Tabaré Riverock Banda. I grew up on those albums. When I was a teenager, my brother got a bass and a classical guitar, and I used to see him play the guitar. Sometimes I would play the guitar, but I didn’t know what I was doing. I would just make some noise and have some fun with it. At age 17, I bought my first drum set, and I started taking drum and music lessons, but it was always a secondary thing.

Q: What composers and musicians initially inspired you? How did you continue to hone your skills as a composer, drummer, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist?
A: Musicians such as Eduardo MateoJorge LazaroffJaime RoosMariana Ingold, and Hugo Fattoruso … always have and will be a [big] source of inspiration for me. Those are just a few names, but the list is huge! 

When I was 22 or 23, I left school, where I was studying music education, and I decided to focus on studying drums instead. I took lessons with great Uruguayan drummers such as Osvaldo FattorusoMape Bossio, and Martín Ibarburu. Then I went to Buenos Aires, Argentina, once Martín suggested I take lessons with Oscar Giunta and Daniel “Pipi” Piazzolla. Not long after that, I met a guy who was studying at the Conservatory of Tatuí in São Paulo, the biggest conservatory in Brazil and Latin America, and I ended up going there. I lived in Brazil for six years and I got a degree in Brazilian popular music and jazz drums in 2016. As part of my program, I learned about arrangements, took guitar lessons, and picked up more tools to express myself as a musician.

Q: How did your musical journey lead you to the U.S. in 2019? What initially brought you to Ann Arbor? How did you come to meet the members of Chirp and later join the band?
A: I moved to Ann Arbor in 2019 because my partner was pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. At first, things got off to a slow start for me because I didn’t speak any English. I started playing in a band, and my partner was at every gig translating for me. She saw a post online about a local band looking for a drummer … so I went to the audition. 

It went well, and Chirp asked me to do another audition, but then the COVID lockdown hit, and the second audition was delayed for months. During that time, I learned all the songs from their previous albums. A few months later, I finally did the second audition and was prepared to perform live the next day. It was super fun playing with them and I was lucky to be part of the recording for their second studio album, In Motion. I remember they had a clear vision of what they wanted for the album’s songs while rehearsing and recording them. They were also very open to any suggestions … and they created a welcoming environment for me while we worked on the album. Their creative approach has always been “No egos, music first,” so cheers to my friends in Chirp!

Q: What brought you to Raleigh, North Carolina in 2021 and now Durham? How have you become involved in the music community there? 
A: I moved to Raleigh in 2021 because my partner got a job at the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University. I quickly joined some local bands, and I still play with some of them, including Também and Caique Vidal & Batuque. There’s a lot of musical diversity here … and it’s a little more open to different types of Latin music—but not that Ann Arbor isn’t. Since that time, my English has been improving, and it’s made it easier for me to meet and connect with more people here in music.

Q: How does the title track sonically kick off the album’s cross-country journey from Michigan? How does it represent your thoughts, feelings, and experiences about spending time there?
A: I tried to tell the story of my arrival in the U.S., and it was shocking and tough. Physically, I felt like I was in the U.S., but mentally I was still in Uruguay. That was a strange feeling because I didn’t speak any English, but at the same time, it was new and exciting to be in a [different] place!

Q: “Ya no verás,” or “You Will No Longer See,” features a serene, yet infectious sound and entices listeners with its soulful vocals and jazzy instrumentation. What inspired the track’s tranquil sound and its ability to uplift listeners?
A: “Ya no verás” was the first song I wrote [for Michigan] in 2019. I was in my backyard, and there was a little creek nearby with water running all the time. On the other side of the creek was a big wall with ivy on it. That served as an inspirational backdrop while I was messing around with a candombe riff on the guitar and coming up with lyrics. This song also won a composition award at the National Music Awards in Uruguay last year.

Q: “Crossing the Appalachians” sonically represents an introspective and smooth journey across the mountain range to a new life in North Carolina. What's special to you about that journey? How does this track serve as a fitting soundtrack for embarking on a new adventure?
A: Well, I made the trip from Ann Arbor to Raleigh in my car with a dog, a guinea pig, drums, and a bunch of other stuff. Crossing the Appalachians was an inspiring journey because Uruguay doesn’t have any mountains, and I was amazed by them. Musically, the song has a candombe rhythm to make it clear that I was crossing a mountain range. It’s also the only song I wrote in Raleigh.

Q: How long did you spend composing the eight tracks for Michigan? What was it like to co-write “The Strings We Attach” with Francisco Fattoruso and Rodrigo Cotelo?
A: I wrote the songs from 2019 to 2021, but it didn't take me two years to write them. I wasn’t in a hurry and didn’t feel pressured to finish them right away.

The Strings We Attach” came up during a jam session with Francisco and Rodrigo at Rodrigo’s house. After listening to it, we selected a few minutes from that session that we thought worked best with the album’s overall vibe.

Q: How long did you spend recording the eight tracks for Michigan at Instru Dash Mental Studios in Frankfort, Indiana; Osceola Studios in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Berequetum Studios in Montevideo, Uruguay?
A: After I made some demos and then sent them to Rodrigo to start working on them, we got together with Francisco at Rodrigo’s house in Frankfort, Indiana, to start recording over the demos. While it wasn’t a live performance, I started recording the drums and the acoustic guitar, and then Francisco recorded all of the bass parts. We spent about five days recording … and we worked on 11 songs but chose eight [for the album].

Rodrigo also added some guitars, mandolin, and percussion, and then the other musicians added their parts one by one. The first musician was Clay Wulbrecht, who’s an amazing pianist and melodica player. Then a good friend of mine, Daniel Barden, who’s from Brazil and worked on my first album, Do Interiô, did all the lead electric guitars. Some of the other musicians recorded remotely from their homes, and others recorded at Instru Dash Mental Studios with Rodrigo and Francisco. 

Another friend from Uruguay, Federico Araujo, recorded accordion at Berequetum Studios in Montevideo. After we got all the recordings done, I recorded all of the drum parts at Osceola Studios in Raleigh. 

Q: How and when did you come to meet producer Rodrigo Cotelo? How did Rodrigo help you shape the overall sound for Michigan?
A: A mutual friend made a post on Instagram recommending some different albums to listen to. One of them was my Do Interiô album, and Rodrigo saw that post and found out I was living in Ann Arbor. He reached out to say hello as another Uruguayan living in the U.S. We realized we didn’t live too far from each other at the time. Not long after that, he invited me to record on his album, and I went to Frankfort, Indiana to work with him. I didn’t charge him for any of the work that I did on his album. A few months later, he visited me in Ann Arbor and offered to produce my album to return the favor. I said, “OK, cool. Just let me write the songs,” and a year later, we started this journey. 

I had some clear ideas of what I wanted and what I didn’t want, but Rodrigo came up with some great ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of myself. Together, we were able to take the music to a higher level. Rodrigo also brought in some other musicians for the album, including Francisco Fattoruso, Clay Wulbrecht, Rob Dixon, and Marco Messina, and helped me finance a large portion of the project. 

Q: How did your main collaborators—Francisco Fattoruso (fretless, electric, and upright bass), Clay Wulbrecht (piano, melodica), Daniel Barden (lead electric guitar), and Rodrigo Cotelo (electric, acoustic, and 12-string guitar, electric sitar, mandolin, synth, harmonium, and percussion)—help you bring Michigan’s eight tracks to life?
A: They are all amazing musicians! I had clear ideas of what I wanted, and they had charts to follow, but I also left space for them to create what they felt. I wanted them to have their voices on the album, too. This applied to all of the guest musicians as well. Rodrigo was a huge contributor, and he sometimes took the lead on the recording sessions with the other musicians.

Q: You also worked with a talented cast of guest musicians on Michigan. Collectively, how did Nico Selves (vocals), Amanda Mara (vocals), Rob Dixon (tenor, alto, and soprano sax), Federico Araujo (accordion), Ramiro Flores (tenor and alto sax), Rebecca Kleinmann (flute and alto flute), Martin Ibarra (electric guitar), and Marco Messina (bass) help take the album to the next level sonically?
A: It’s pretty hard not to take the music to the next level when you combine all these incredible musicians and human beings!

Q: What plans do you have for your March 29 album release show at Sharp 9 Gallery in Durham? Will you be playing Michigan in its entirety? Who will be joining you on stage for that show?
A: We have been working on this show since September of last year, so it will be a special night! We will have some surprises and guests for it … and we’ll play all the songs from Michigan and some songs from my previous album along with some classic Afro-Uruguayan folk music.

We’re going to perform as a quartet with Brandon Mitchell on acoustic and MIDI vibraphone, Charlie Garnett on guitar, Andy Powell on bass, and me on drums and guitar. We’re also playing on April 12 at Missy Lane’s Assembly Room, which is a new jazz venue in downtown Durham. They’re bringing in renowned artists from all over the country, and we’re excited to have an opportunity to play there.

Q: You’re playing the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music & Dance in Pittsboro, North Carolina on May 5. Is this your first time performing at that festival? What do you hope the audience will take away from your performance there?
A: All of us have played there with other bands, but it will be our first time playing with the Gastón Reggio Group. The Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival is awesome! It will be the same quartet as the Sharp 9 Gallery show. That same day, I’ll be giving a workshop on candombe and how it’s influenced my music. 

The music we are playing isn’t common in this region, so I hope people connect with the depth of the music and dance along to it. It’s also another way to learn more about Uruguayan culture … and so hopefully by the end of the show, they’ll be thirsty for more.

Q: What’s up next for you later this year? Do you have plans to write, record, and release additional new material? What about tours with your other bands?
A: I’d like to perform more with my group and would like to tour in Michigan and share this music. If anybody would like to bring us in, then let me know! Ha!

I’m always working on new music, but it’s not a rush. I don’t have any plans to record or release any other new material this year. However, I will be recording with Também and the Rebecca Kleinmann Quintet this summer.

I have some tours coming up with Também in early April. We’re going to Virginia and Washington, D.C., and then to the mountains in western North Carolina in the middle of June.

Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of