Chris Forte expands his musical horizons with his exploratory and diverse new musical odyssey Backyard Astronomy — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
The guitar visionary’s epic new album finds him displaying his adventurous musical spirit by fusing blues, jazz, funk, folk, classical and atmospheric sounds over the course of 11 instrumental tracks and a trio of vocal numbers that add up to his most ambitious and offering to date. The music on Backyard Astronomy — which also happens to be Forte’s hobby — captures the sense of wonder you would get from taking a deep look into the mysteries of night sky.
“Backyard Astronomy came together in the midst of the pandemic, when a performing guitarist found himself quarantined and recording remotely for various church and tribute shows,” Forte says. “Through the process of these recordings, original material came together which inspired the notion that there was more to the music that was being produced than just social media shares or internet content. The result was a mix of material recorded in my home, as well as at the Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Northfield, IL, Shirk Studios in Chicago, IL, and Soundbank Studio in Northfield, IL.
“The title Backyard Astronomy came together as astronomy is a big hobby of mine, and continued as well through the pandemic. It also brought the material together as the songs are so varied stylistically. Just like all the constellations in the sky are different but come together to make the night sky, the varied styles of the songs come together as they are inspirations of one guitarist/musician (in the throes of a pandemic).
“Additionally, this album found me recording for the first time with someone I’ve always looked up to, Chris ‘Hambone’ Cameron on keyboards, which was truly a dream come true. As well, I was able to reconnect with musicians Brian Ebert and Matt Becker — who I began my musical career with — for the first time in decades. Lastly, represented on this album is a duo with Chicago-based composer Mischa Zupko, who I’ve worked alongside for 13 years at Lutheran Church of the Ascension, on piano, representing the first released recording of us performing together.”
Always a prolific musician, Chris has played almost every type of gig or venue available to a working guitarist over the course of 25 years. From television to radio, jazz or pop, acoustic or electric, originals to musicals, live and studio, Forte has performed in 28 states and five countries, leaving no stone unturned as he continues to blaze his own trail.
Forte first picked up guitar at the age of 16 and was playing in bars throughout Chicago by age 19. Landing a full-time gig playing in Tony & Tina’s Wedding in Chicago at age 22, he learned quickly how to perform multiple shows a week as a professional and has never looked back since. Maintaining a presence in Chicago’s original music scene in the 1990s, Chris attracted producers from the Jenny Jones Show, leading to a recurring on-screen role.
In the early 2000s Chris played extensively throughout the blues scene in Chicago, landing a full-time gig with Sam Cockrell & The Groove. With Sam, he recorded two albums including 2002’s Colorblind, which featured The Memphis Horns performing on one of Forte’s compositions titled Tryin’ To Get Over Using You. With this band, he was awarded the Albert King Award for his extraordinary guitar work. In 2004, Forte released his own original blues-rock album Soul Farmer, and had his song The Tomahawk featured on TV’s Shark Tank. When he isn’t leading The Forte Band, he has been teaching at Columbia College Chicago for over 15 years.