Ut Gret alumni


Past members have all contributed greatly to our place in the musical conversation.

Each one of these folks have made invaluable contributions to the musical fabric of Ut Gret.

Gary Pahler
1996 - 2013

Instruments: drum kit, percussion, bass guitar.


While most musicians develop a singular style and trade off of that sound, drummer Gary Pahler's approach is suited towards the project under construction, while providing great instincts for what the project should sound like. This has led himto add his drumming skills to afro-latin, indie-rock, traditional West African music and to avant-garde bands.

   After the dissolve of Circus Spy, which also included reed player Steve Good, both Gary and Steve became Ut Gret members in 2000, joining the duo of Joee Conroy and Gregory Acker. This dynamic duo had been carrying the torch of Ut Gret's already fifteen-plus year history. When French TV founding member Stephen Roberts joined Ut Gret on keyboards and trumpet a year later, it created the most stable line-up the group has ever witnessed. This version of Ut Gret recaps the musical directions Gary was already pursuing. In fact, he brought much of the material from his band, Circus Spy, with him. This added to the decidedly pan-idiomatic playing of Ut Gret, capable of leaping from genre to genre in a single bound; an ideal ensemble for Gary's wide range of interests. Ut Gret recorded on internationally revered guitar stylist, Eugene Chadbourne's "Young and Innocent Days" in 2000 and in 2006 they released "Recent Fossils"; an amazingly varied three disc set on Ear X-tacy Records. One of Gary's highlights of being an Ut Gret member came in 2007, when they were joined on stage by ex-Zappa drummer, Jimmy Carl Black. With both drum sets side by side, they performed Frank Zappa's classic "King Kong".

     Some of the bands that Gary has performed and recorded with include The Web (Ear X-tacy label), King Kong (Drag City artist), AfrOasis, The Commonwealth (Let's Be Quiet label), the Kyene Drum Ensemble and Crappy Nightmareville (Black Velvet label).

    Besides being the drummer in Ut Gret, Gary also regularly performs with the eight member world music group, the Coco Yam Band. In addition, he is a television Producer/Director for KET (Kentucky Educational Television/PBS).

    Gary left the group in the fall of 2013 to pursue other interests.

James Vaughn
2007 - 2010

Instruments: cello (acoustic & amplified)

                       (bowed, plucked, strummed, struck)

    James brings to the Ut Gret soundscape what has been described as a dark sensuality; bridging folk lyricism with the soulful blues - built on a structure of Baroque and Classical, leaning toward jazz.
    James first performed with members of Ut Gret doing a live rehearsed improvisation as the soundtrack to the film "Metropolis", at the University of Louisville, and secondly as part of the Ut Gret-organized orchestra, performing Terry Riley's "In C", at the Jazz Factory.
    Born in Louisville, but after two years replanted in the hills of southern Indiana. No surprise then that the real fun started to blossom when he moved back to the city. Coming in on a free ride to the music school at UofL was likely inspired by the opportunity the Floyd County Youth Symphony offered him - through a concerto competition - to do a bit of concerto with the Louisville Orchestra. When he arrived, immediately Baroque music - through the Early Music Ensemble - magnetically drew him in. The amazing tonal colors of the Viola da Gambas, recorders, krumhorns, singing with Baroque inflection with the ensemble, and such wonderful small instrumental consorts with the most amazing chamber music feeling... needless to say shortly thereafter he answered a flyer posted by Absorbdissolve, and became an Anthropology minor. This is how things go.
    Some great teachers have honed their patience with James; being a classical music student has its perks. Starting with jazz bassist Doug Elmore, Robin Chappars of the Louisville Academy of Music, Dana Ballard at the Kentuckiana Music Center, Julia Preston of the LO, Susannah Onwood, principal of the LO, Nella Hunkins, formerly of the Berlin Philharmonic, and Paul York, who was also the head of the cello studio at the Sewanee summer music festivals. The latter three being, in past succession, UofL faculty.
    [Doug Elmore was later James' high school orchestra teacher and a co-director in the Floyd County Youth Symphony. Dana Ballard by synchronicity or other reasons was also at the same time an Ut Gret musical associate; James was actually introduced to Joee in the early 90s at one of Dana's student recitals in Louisville; Joee prophesied then, with a twinkle in his eye, James coming to the Louisville music scene.]
    James has been part of the 4 Indiana All State Orchestras, the Sewanee Summer Music Center (and Festival), 10 years in the Floyd County Youth Symphony, the Kentuckiana Music Institute, 3 years in the UofL Early Music Ensemble, 2 1/2 years with the University Orchestra, conferences with the Viola da Gamba Society of America, a few seminars with the UofL Irish Music Ensemble, a UofL Theatre Department production, the perfroming period Baroque ensemble Bourbon Baroque, galas for the NAACP Scholarship Fund, music for UofL Opera & Chorus, Gatherings of the Rainbow Family of the Living Light, became a thespian in high school, through music, and is an ICRT-certified Reiki Master.
    He has performed with Tiger Saw, Secret Sea, Ron Whitehead & Southside; appears on recordings by the Gallery Singers, The Fervor, Andrea Davidson, Marie Geever, composers Jeremy Podgursky, Danny Dutton, Drew Sellers, and Jacob Duncan; has performed and recorded with the groups Absorbdissolve, The Commonwealth, Litany's Last Call, The Pataphysical Quartet, and Ut Gret.
    James has been under the direction notably, of Victor Yampolsky, Dale Clevenger, Kimcherie Lloyd, Jack Ashworth, Jim Rightmyer, Robert Franz, and coached by Charlie Pikler, Alfred H. Bartles, Peter McHugh, Sidney King, and Christian Fredrickson.
    James was a member of a cello quartet at UofL, which won the chamber music competition one year. As these fellow musicians found out, James in general adds a certain zen humor to his performances. When given the opportunity, the quartet quickly became named "Cellos...in Space!"
    As well as performing and recording, James teaches cello lessons at Jimmy's Music Center in New Albany, Indiana, and has a beginning home composition/recording studio. He is also supportive of passive solar design, researching alternative history, holistic health care, loves Stevia extract, and the anti-inflammatory/low-glycemic, lotsa-water, pH balanced diet.
    James was an active member of Ut Gret from 2007-2010. He is featured on the CD "Radical Symmetry" and, though he has now left to pursue other musical interests, is welcome back anytime.

Mark Bradlyn


1986 - 1989

instruments: electronics, synthesizers


    Mark began his music career in  folk music with his brother. His High School group was called the "Folk Modern" and his first professional outing was called "Stourbridge Lion". Their sibling harmonies put them in the Southern California maelstrom of coffee house gigs along side the likes of Glen Frey, Jackson Browne, James Taylor and they had a head start on coming out of playing the hootenanny circuit as tried and tested performers.  Mark told a story of a 16 year old kid approaching them after a gig and pronouncing that they were his favorite vocal group and he had written a song just for them. After playing it, the boys looked at each other and said, "we can't play your song, its terrible". Crushed, the young man went home, ended up recording it himself and the career of Kenny Logins was born and the song "Christopher Robbin" became an enduring hit. 
    Mark later built his own Serge synthesizer and began exploring electronic music, composing music for the Neil Armstrong  Museum and helping construct the patch cord module interface for Phil Lesh' "Seastones" record that featured Jerry Garcia, Grace Slick, David Crosby and Ned Lagan, though he was uncredited on the album cover.
    Finding himself in Santa Cruz in the 1980s, he began acting and reviving his folk music career when he met Ut Gret in 1986.  They had been working as a duo, touring with Eugene Chadbourne and were considering moving back to trio mode. Cellist Doug Carroll, theater and (white) rapper Craig Bishop, Jey Clark (who had a duo with a young John Zorn) and drummer Dylan Morgan were all under cosideration but the chemistry with Mark, plus the fact that he was a vocalist and a great violist made the choice easy. His electronics gave the Grets a more unjazz  futuristic sound and allowed David Stilley to play more woodwinds and percussion.  His contribution to the Grets from 1986 to 1989 was invaluable, both musically and as a writer and intellectual.  When he stated in the band after one crazy rehearsal (the Grets rehearsed a lot) when they were listening back (they record everything) he remarked in all earnestness, "What kind of people does it take to groove to this kind of music"?
    Mark stayed in Santa Cruz when David Stilley and Joee Conroy moved to Kentucky in 1989. His stay in the group marked the first, but not the last time that Ut Gret consisted of a Muslim, a Jew and an ex-Catholic. Mark still acts, writes, and plays Oud in a Arabic ensemble called "the Desert Dream Raq Band" and plays classical Arabic music with Elais Lammans which is an amazing place for a good Jewish man to find himself.

James Potter


1988 - 1989

instruments:  clarinets, synthesizers


     James Potter was a founding Member of Ut Gret along with Joee Conroy and David Stilley.  He was also an original member of Big CIty Orchestra when Joee met him at a gig in Santa Cruz when Conroy met him while playing in his own group, "Invisible Dinosaur". They were playing the Henry Cow tune "The Birth of War" and we were playing Henry Cow's arrangement of Robert Wyatt's "Little Red Riding Hood HIts the Road".  David and James were both bikers at the time and became room-mates.  In 1980 they had formed a trio with Sybyl Glebow (cello/drums) doing AACM style chamber music and also had a percussion trio with drummer Chis Roe.

    The next Big City Orchestra featured Joee on guitar and David on a variety of instruments.  Joee and David performed as

The Aggregate with fellow Kentuckian Steve Bauer on drums.  Henry Kaiser sat in on guitar and marked the first of many times that Kaiser would play with Conroy.
    The next Big City Orchestra gig would be with "Negativeland".  The three would leave BCO to form Ut Gret to pursue a more wide ranging approach they would come to call pan-idomatic.  James was studying clarinet with Andy Hass and eager to take his jazz interests and new music . James had the largest collection of Sun Ra records that they had ever seen. He and David were a perfect match. David Stilley was the greatest natural musician they had ever seen, but James had a powerful intuitive feel for new directions and a sense of what was cool.  There was a synergy in the dual horn play between clarinet and the saxophones. James played almost all the members of the clarinet family including Bass Clarinet, Alto Clarinet, Contra-bass Clarinet and Ab Clarinet along with the usual Bb Clarinet.
    In 1984, he sold all but his Bb Clarinet to David Sitilley in exchange for David's Fender Rhodes electric piano and his Frankenstein monster of a synthesizer comprised of Serge, Buchla and E-mu modules. The last gig he played with Ut Gret was opening for Fred Frith and Henry Kaiser. His electronics had given a futuristic sound to the mostly acoustic, more free jazz sound that Ut Gret had been developing.  In 1985 he announced he was leaving the Grets to work on electronic music. He put out a solo recording called "My Sediments Exactly" which featured Ut Gret on half the recording in which he proclaimed Ut Gret "the coolest unsigned band in the world". 
    James was always critically ahead of his time.  His next project, "Dark Summer", a duo  with former Conroy room-mate David Cooke (who was also in "Invisible Dinosaur") would continue his search for radically new sounds. In 1986 he would re-team up with Conroy, David Cooke and singer songwriter Gage Kenady to form "Flophausen" a proto-grunge band that played beautiful love songs with stinging guitars and Stockhausen-like sonic textures.   In 1997 he released a solo album of all electronic music called, "13 Drones". After moving to San Francisco along with Gage Kenady, he relocated again to Seattle and had taken up playing sitar.
    James Potter's fingerprint on the Grets, along with that of David Stilley can still be seen today. They were the first to lay out a vision of music that embraced jazz, new music, rock, folk, world music, improvisation and composition into new structures and a new syntax with hetrodox techniques. James was from New Jersey, David Stilley from San Diego  and Joee Conroy from Kentucky.  These geographical elements made the Grets unique from the New Music happening in the the Bay Area, the LA scene, New York or the south.

Gregory Acker
1994 - 2011

Instruments: flutes (metal & wooden), soprano saxophone, C-melody saxophone, all manner of percussion.

Gregory Acker is a Community Artist from Louisville, Kentucky. He provides community-building world music workshops and related arts activities for groups of all ages and abilities. He often works with other artist-collaborators, and specializes in the music-cultures of Indonesia, West Africa, and South India.  
    As a musician, instrument-builder, and arts educator, he has worked with VSA Arts Indiana and Kentucky (arts for students with disabilities), the Kentucky Arts Council, the Kentucky Center for the Arts, and numerous churches, community groups, and juvenile detention centers. He has received grants for community-based projects from the NEA, Southern Arts Federation, Greater Louisville Fund for the Arts, and the City of Louisville, and was selected by the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation as “one of America’s most skilled and experienced community artists” in 1999. 
    In addition to teaching about the musics of the world and related arts (drama, shadow-puppetry, visual arts, movement), Mr. Acker also designs and builds sets of musical instruments for use by participating groups, utilizing inexpensive, locally-available materials. Mr. Acker has also designed musical instruments specifically for use by people with disabilities, and designs and presents teacher in-service training on integrating world music into classroom curricula. 
    As a performer and composer, Mr. Acker works with Ut Gret—a pan-idiomatic world music and free improvisation ensemble—as well as Kyene, a West African drum ensemble, and has recorded with diverse performers including Russian folk music, acid jazz, punkabilly, midwest creole, and hip-hop.
    Mr. Acker holds an MA in Ethnomusicology (World Music) from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and is a former Peace Corps volunteer in two countries in Africa, with extended study experience in India and Indonesia. He has taught music education and world music courses for the University of Louisville, Indiana University Southeast and Jefferson Community College.


Denny Whalen
circa 2002 - present

instruments: drums, percussion, electronics


Denny has been a collaborator with Ut Gret on many projects. Most notably as percussionist on our live silent film soundtracks to "Nosferatu" & "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". He also contributed electronics to our 2011 release "Radical Symmetry"

Misha Feigen
1994 - 1997

instruments: guitar, vocals


Misha Feigin was born in Moscow and studied music there acquiring extensive knowledge of classical, Russian folk,and gypsy guitar styles achieving acclaim as one of the foremost guitarists in Russia. He released 4 records in Russia on the Soviet "Melodiya" label. At the same time he was a state-sponsored artist, he was participating in the underground rock scene that was thriving in Soviet Russia.  He emigrated to the US as soon as the opportunity presented itself and ended up in Louisville, KY.  Misha saw Ut Gret perform with LaDonna Smith and Glenn Engstrand at the Louisville School for the Blind (March 1994) and immediately asked to join. It was David Stilley's last gig as a Gret and together with Gregory Acker they reformed as a trio to continue the Gret legacy.  Misha fulfilled much the same roll as Mark Bradlyn did, bringing vocals back into the fold of Ut Gret music.  He recorded an album of songs, "Dreams" in 1998 with fellow Grets Joee Conroy, Gregory Acker, Steve Good, Mike Sary and other Louisvillians.
     Misha left the Grets in1997 to perform as a solo act, preferring to work in various duos and has since recorded several albums for Leo with artists like Elliot Sharp, Davey Williams, LaDonna Smith, Craig Hultgren, Robert W. Gerlach and Eugene Chadbourne.  He is a published poet and writer, has appeared on Mountain Stage, at WOMAD in Toronto and at the Winnipeg International Folk Festival. He has performed all over Europe and, at last count, in 38 states and in Israel. He speaks several languages.

Dave Stilley
1982 - 1994

instruments: woodwinds, flutes, keyboards, guitar, percussion, brass,   

                        electronics, etc.


    David Stilley showed up unannounced on Joee Conroy's doorstep in 1980 with an urgent desire to share some ideas about music. He had gotten the name from fellow San Diegan, David Denton who met Conroy and his future wife, Lisa Kemper, crashed on his couch their first night in Santa Cruz courtesy of former Louisvillian, David Willenbrink.  Within weeks, the two had formed a musical bond that has gone through new wave, jazz, electronic music , world music, RIO style music and much more. Usually led by David's genius and amazing ability to translate any musical idea on almost any instrument. David was an amazing  keyboard player, guitarist, bass player, drummer and percussionist.  He could play trumpet, trombone, bassoon, contra-bass clarinet, oboe, flute, bass flute, bass sax. baritone sax. alto and soprano and sopranino sax and he played several species of bagpipes. He studied electronic music under Bob Beede and built his own analog synthesizer using  Serge modules, a Buchla touchplate system and a E-mu voice card.  He taught himself FM synthesis.

David and Joee's first serious performing group was  an electronic music duo called "Cheez Whiz". They would perform mostly on Conroy's  "Alternate Currents" radio show at the UCSC campus from 2am to 4am.  It was a two hour show within his show  called "The Pirate Radio Hour".  They also opened for Mother Gong.  David's roomate, James Potter and he formed an improvising group called "Gorgo" and a percussion ensemble. The convergence of these elements led to the formation of Ut Gret.  These three original members asked drummer Chris Roe, who played in the percussion ensemble, to join and dedicated themselves to free improvisation after seeing Henry Kaiser, Derek Baily, Evan Parker, ROVA, Greg Goodman, Charles K Noyes and Toshinro Kondo with Steve Lacy and Steve Potts in San Jose. Ut Gret would remain at the center of the Santa Cruz music scene all through the 1980's. Joee and David continued as partners in a vast number of projects like:

The Urban Bush Ensemble (Original Afro-pop group) 1991 to 1994

Kevin Collins Group (Jazz) 1988-1989

Local Universe (World Music) 1990-1991

SCRAMS Orchestra (Santa Cruz Renegade Artists and

                                    Musicians Society)1982-2984

    David would remain the heart of Ut Gret, moving with Joee to Louisvillle, KY in 1989 and pioneering the directions of Ut Gret until moving back to Santa Cruz in 1994.  From there he started playing reggae music and slowly retired from music with health problems. 

At last report he was playing pedal steel guitar.

Ritchie West


1988 - 1989

instruments: drums, french horn


    Ritchie West was involved in the early Santa Cruz music scene with Camper Van Beethoven and later was the drummer in the large group called "Wrestling Worms".  The Wrestling Worms were a popular group combining the textures of Sun Ra with the Punk/New Wave vibe that was part of that scene. He started playing with Joee on bass and David on saxophones in the Kevin Collins Group. 
    When Ut Gret started to be asked to play larger gigs like the first "Bay Area Improvisor Festival" in Berkley and the Los Angeles "Day of Music", the idea to expand the ensemble with VInny Golia in LA and  violinist Betsy Benke in Berkley.  Ritchie was asked to be part of that movement to play for larger audiences. He was the drummer for Conroy's "Concerto for Chaos aworking nd Orchestra" with Fred Lomberg-Holm plus members of the Wrestling Worms and Camper Van Beethoven.  Ritchie played several more jazz-oriented gigs with

Ut Gret at the Cafe Chameleon and the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. The fact that he doubled on French Horn was a plus.  Ut Gret was always working with guests like Henry Kaiser, Jack Wright, Greg Goodman, John Oswald, Tom Gurlnick, Davey Williams, La Donna Smith and fellow improvisors.  Ritchie was more like a member than a guest although he was never officially asked to join. He nevertheless represented a return to Ut Gret having a drummer as a full time member and a return to  overt jazz elements in the music, an aspect missing since Chris Roe's departure.
    Ritchie moved to LA in the 1990's and continued playing with acts as diverse as Mike Watt (with whom he drums on several albums) and Vinny Golia. He was the drummer on SST  "Mojack" with Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn which many consider a forerunner of Ginn's "Gone" band.  He has his own quartet and his original style of upside down jazz drumming keeps his phone ringing. He has been continually active in the LA music scene.