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James Pankow interview -Chicago trombonist and horn arranger leads the charge

Between two tours of Europe and Asia and select dates in the United States this summer, it seems audiences can't get enough of the legendary rock 'n' roll band with horns, Chicago.

Chicago will take the stage for a one-time performance in Ohio on May 20 at the Hard Rock Rocksino, 10777 Northfield Road in Northfield. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $56 to $110.

"It's not only busy, it's busier than ever," said original band member Jimmy Pankow. "It's gotten to the point where the music has become a phenomenon."

This year marks Chicago's 47th consecutive year of touring, without missing a single concert date.

"This is what we've done for so long that it's become almost something that we cannot do without," Pankow said. "It's a communion because you created this music and little did you know when you sat at a piano and notated some intimate, personal ideas and thoughts that they would become shared with hundreds of thousands of people and become an experience, not just notes on paper."

The show will take audiences on a magical journey, starting from the very beginning.

"The adrenaline gets pumping," Pankow said. "The people get nuts. The show we're doing is probably the best show we've ever done in terms of pacing, in terms of capturing the body of music of all these years. We start the show with the first album and we include selections from our new album."

Chicago's new record, "Now," Chicago XXXVI, is set to release on Ju.... The album includes 11 brand new songs, recorded on the road.

"We have some very exploratory stuff and music that is traditionally Chicago," Pankow said. "We have the signature horns and the identity that the music has always had, but we also have the fun of taking it places that was not possible before. The music is very daring in some ways. It is where we are now."

For this record, Chicago built a new "recording rig" that travels with the band.

"This new technology has allowed us to be extremely mobile," Pankow said. "The music is reported by us as we travel, as we get inspired. We can record in hotel rooms, on the bus, in the venue. We don't have to, like the old days, assemble in a traditional recording studio and track new songs and go through the protocol. We are now free to do whatever we want. We can push the limits."

They have even created an online collaboration portal that allows even more performances to be worked on around the clock from remote locations.

"For the first time since the beginning of the band, we are looking at not only a new way of making records, but a new way of manifesting those records," Pankow said. "We do business now essentially direct to fans through the Internet."

Anything and everything that is Chicago is available on the band's website,

"This is global," Pankow said. "We have the same career in Asia, Latin America, Europe, Australia. Just the other day we were tracking web activity and at one moment there were people visiting the website from about 12 different countries simultaneously. It takes the performance and the music to another level."

With a release around the corner, Chicago is already thinking about what's next.

"If you're serious about your art, you absolutely need to search for that next thing," Pankow said. "There's never a point where you think you've done it or said it all. That is the pull that keeps you going. Even with the new collection of songs for the release this summer, additional new songs are still being written for yet a future collection, not only written, but recorded."

Although Chicago embraces today's cutting edge technology, the band is still old-fashioned in some ways.

"When people come to a Chicago show, they see veteran musicians with great ability, playing and singing music very well," Pankow said. "There's no smoke and mirrors. They come to witness and hear music that's been performed the old-fashioned way, and the records are a mirror of that."

Chicago's 1969 album "The Chicago Transit Authority" was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame this year. The band performed on the Grammy stage for the first time in 2014, performing four songs with Grammy nominee Robin Thicke.

Chicago will play on May 20 at the Hard Rock Rocksino, 10777 Northfield Road in Northfield.

For tickets and more information, call 330-908-7625 or visit hrrock

[Source: By Kelly Maile Record-Courier]

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Comment by Mark Dolan on May 14, 2014 at 5:55pm

Remember there was a time when the band seemed to portray to fans that only a minority number of bandmembers were even mildly interested in new music -- Robert Lamm, among them. This came during the time of the Rhino Records re-issues & even before that.

From afar, one may have gotten the idea the fellas were mailing it in. Or else, in their defense, they were wanting to -- justifiably -- spend more time away from career obligations/ traveling/ touring etc. Well, so much for that. The band seems busier than ever of late. On the heels of a tremendously conceived "O Christmas Three" album (XXXIII) and a new on-the-road portable recording rig, CHI seems to be doing it again ....  proving all of us wrong. They do it over & over. The sound has been updated, yet still Chicago. But, it's how this band manages to stay relevant & enjoy the ride that makes me appreciate these days all the more.

Who among us here would ever have imagined such a Chicago renaissance a decade ago? It all seems to have been well-timed. The internet not only can be a newcomer's ally, but it can make doing business much easier for a long-standing act like the legendary Chicago.

Keep on, Chicago!

Comment by Mark Dolan on May 14, 2014 at 5:35pm

Huw, nice post. I have to add to your James Pankow's TOTO linking.... his horn arrangement AND particpation at the end of the "Dying On My Feet" track (from the 2006 CD "Falling In Between.") Awesome! And, although, Toto's megahit "Pamela" (1988) sounds very Chicago, the horns were arranged by Tom Scott (according to Wikapedia).

As far as the guys winding down, I thought that was coming 15 years ago. Chicago always finds the next thing. Lucky stars, Chicago. Hard work, yes. But, it's all lined up well. The music. Yes! 


Comment by Dave Wright on May 10, 2014 at 4:52pm
There is an incredible amount of energy and creativity coming out of the guys right now. I witnessed it a couple of weeks ago when they were in Minneapolis. While I understand what Plante is saying, he needs to take notice of what Chicago is doing. "Now" should certainly convince Plante and others that the guys have taken their focus an creativity to a while new level. Game on!!
Comment by Mary A. Shuldman on May 9, 2014 at 4:22am

47 years and still going strong! Looking forward to seeing the band over the summer.

Comment by Alison O'Rear on May 8, 2014 at 1:25pm

After reading Robert Plante's comments in an interview posted on Rolling Stone's FB page today where Plante alluded to the fact that longtime bands are only still performing because they're "bored", I am even more thankful that Chicago continues to deliver what their fans want and what challenges them musically and makes them still enjoy their craft after 47 years. Jimmy says it well in this interview: "If you're serious about your art, you absolutely need to search for that next thing. There's never a point where you think you've done it or said it all. That is the pull that keeps you going. Even with the new collection of songs for the release this summer, additional new songs are still being written for yet a future collection, not only written, but recorded." Rock on, Chicago!

Comment by Dennis Brodsky on May 8, 2014 at 11:00am

Glad to hear you going to keep on Rockin'. Looking forward to seeing you in St. Louis.

Comment by Sylvia Kasabian on May 8, 2014 at 10:16am

Chicago put on an awesome performance. I will see them again in August. Can't wait!!!

Comment by Ed Sulesky on May 8, 2014 at 9:58am
Great interview. There seems to be a new energy in the guys, very exciting.
Comment by Jim Solem on May 8, 2014 at 9:46am

Getting very excited about the "New" release July 4th.  Love what Jimmy says about the fact that additional songs are being written and even recorded for a future collection.  I love the fact that this band never stands still or rests on its laurels, which would be very easy to do considering their many hits and longevity.  That's why they are such a great band to see in concert (lover 40 times for me) because they treat it like its their first show.  Thank you Chicago for setting the bar so high....and still reaching it.

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