For local Syrian American musician Rami Atassi, sonic inspiration extends far beyond the city’s borders. He has amassed an eclectic range of influences — desert guitar, jazz, Tropicália, samba, Arabic folk music, and Afrobeat — that populate his music. You can hear it in the scores he’s done for films, including his brother Remsy’s Chicago-set Bad Animal, which won best original music at the 2022 Fine Arts Film Festival. And in the music he created with bandleader Tatsu Aoki’s Miyumi Project on an album accompanying Yoko Ono’s Sky Landing sculpture installation in Jackson Park. Atassi, who has played guitar for the local band the Curls, has, in turn, influenced other musicians, regularly teaching at Guitar Tactics, an in-person (in the Fine Arts Building) and online school he founded in 2021.

With his new solo album, Dancing Together (out October 6, with a record release show the night before at Constellation), Atassi meshes his various styles into a melodic instrumental sound full of heart and rhythm. Aiding in that pursuit is his newly assembled group, the Cosmic Dance Band.

Q: On your new album, you’ve found a way to combine many of your influences. How are you able to meld genres so effectively?

A: I like to listen to a lot of music — and I hear connections. When I’m learning something, I’m like, Maybe I should write a tune to explore that. Or I find a new artist and I’m like, Maybe I should write something that reflects that influence. I come back to it later and see what rises to the top from my demos. I’ve hung out with a lot of people who are into fusing jazz and different styles, so it feels comfortable to me and a natural extension of what I’m already into. 

Q: What led to the album title? 

A: I had written this composition “Dancing Together,” and the band was supposed to play it in a particular form. And then somebody in the group disregarded the form. We went in that direction, and it became a different song because somebody took it there. It sounded so much better than the original idea. I like when people are playing music together, and people start dancing and moving. To me, that’s what it’s all about: the communal aspect, especially when you’re performing.

Q: How has working with your brother inspired your own music? 

A:That’s what got me into film scoring and composing. He’s always working on something. And when I’m around folks who are making interesting work, it inspires me.

Photograph: dBpm Records

Cousin, Wilco
Jeff Tweedy and company tweak their sound for the band’s 13th album, working with an outside producer — Welsh musician Cate Le Bon — for the first time since 2007’s Sky Blue Sky. Sept. 29

Photograph: Pravda Records

Saint of Second Chances, Nathan Graham
After years of gigging in backup bands at clubs like Kingston Mines and Buddy Guy’s Legends, the Chicago native releases his debut album as a singer-songwriter. Oct. 20

Photograph: City Slang

Diagnosis, Sen Morimoto
The Chicago artist and Sooper Records co-owner introduced some tracks from his third album, which touches on the ways marginalized musicians are expected to commodify their identities, at his Pitchfork set in July. Nov. 3

— Kris vire