Gust William Tsilis (pronounced chill-us), born on the South Side of Chicago on April 14, 1961, is best known as a vibraphonist and marimba player, also performing on piano and guitar. He cites his biggest early musical influences as Clifford Brown, Milt Jackson, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Samuel Barber, Mahalia Jackson, and Maria Callas. Tsilis lived in Ann Arbor, MI, for a brief period, enrolling at Huron High School before returning to the Chicagoland area, attending Reavis High School in Burbank, IL, and graduating from Rich East High in Park Forest. After another short stint in Ann Arbor, Tsilis was a student at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, then was off to New York City for the next 16 years. Tsilis played piano and percussion instruments, but it was not until 1985 that he began to play mallets. Upon his arrival in New York City in the mid-'80s, he connected with alto saxophonist and mentor Arthur Blythe, who he has been a regular collaborator with over the years. He was also a big fan of Elvin Jones, who counseled him. In 1986 he released his first recording, Pale Fire, featuring Blythe, Horacee Arnold, and Anthony Cox. Other prominent musicians he has worked with include John Abercrombie, Joe Lovano, Billy Hart, Tim Berne, Lindsey Horner, Anthony Cox, Joey Baron, Herb Robertson, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Karl Denson, Pee Wee Ellis, Peter Madsen, Lonnie Plaxico, Uri Caine, Cecil Brooks III, and Terri Lyne Carrington.
He also spent much of his time developing and managing the New York City-based progressive jazz night club Visiones from 1986-1999. Another management opportunity for Tsilis was as an A&R rep for Enja Records, assisting Matthias Winckelmann in signing and recording artists. Prominent singer Kevin Mahogany was scouted and produced by Tsilis on the way to major stardom. While with Enja, he also produced recordings for Maria Schneider, Art Taylor, Jonny King, and Abraham Burton. Tsilis also produced some 40 CDs working for the short-lived Ken label from Japan. Moving to Los Angeles, Tsilis has been composing music for commercial applications with clients including Jenny Craig, Nationwide, and UCLA. He has also been involved in writing film and orchestra music arrangements; songs with lyrics; ensemble charts; and for solo instruments such as piano, flute, viola, violin, cello, English horn, and clarinet. Other credits include composing for Fuel TV videos. He has been studying orchestration with Gernot Wolfgang, a similar film scorer, and is involved with a fully computerized studio involving state-of-the-art sampled sounds for orchestral, groove, and jazz music. He continues an association with Arthur Blythe, playing concerts and club dates on the West Coast, and is teaching himself to play the trumpet. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi