26

Chicago Transit Authority / Chicago II / Chicago III

Marc Davis By

Sign in to view read count
Enter the album name here Chicago, the rock band, is not what you remember. Well, it is, but it's also more than that.

The Chicago you remember is the hit machine of the '70s: "25 or 6 to 4," "Beginnings," "Make Me Smile," "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" and many others. Of course, Chicago is also the wimp rock machine of the '80s: "Hard to Say I'm Sorry," "Hard Habit to Break," "You're the Inspiration" and "Will You Still Love Me?" Rough stuff.

But wait—there's a third Chicago, the band you don't remember, and maybe never heard. It is the jazz-tinged Chicago of the first three albums: Chicago Transit Authority and the imaginatively titled Chicago II and Chicago III. This is music that's not just jazzy, but sometimes actually jazz.

Mostly you can hear it on the non-hit album cuts. Chicago had, of course (and still has), its signature three-man horn section: Lee Loughnane on trumpet, James Pankow on trombone and Walter Parazaider on flute and woodwinds. This was the muscle behind the jazz sound in many early hits.

Enter the album name hereThe brass section was also—along with keyboardist Robert Lamm and guitarist extraordinaire Terry Kath—the driving force behind actual jazz numbers. Listen to the first three albums, back in the day when Chicago was a true jazz-rock band. There are extended solos, psychedelic trips, brass duels, wailing guitars and even free-form jazz.

Chicago Transit Authority, the debut album of 1969, is powered by Kath's nasty guitar. In the seven-minute "Free Form Guitar," Kath crafts a noisy, Hendrix-esque, unaccompanied solo, followed by the angry blues of "South California Purples." Hit songs and album cuts are filled with jazz touches. The album culminates in a 14-minute jazz-rock jam called "Liberation." Even Peter Cetera, who later turned Chicago into mush, turns in powerful bass tracks.

Chicago II has many of the early hits you remember, but also instrumental touches that make it a jazz fan's pleasure. The wonderful seven tunes that make up the "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannan" suite include the familiar "Make Me Smile" and "Color My World," but also three instrumental tracks. The four-song, 10-minute suite "It Better End Soon" starts with a hippy anti-war anthem and continues with funky flutes (undoubtedly influencing Ian Anderson), hardy trumpets and wailing trombones and guitars.

Chicago III features the funky hit single "Free," but also one entire LP side of instrumental rock-jazz, a suite called "Elegy," in which horns mingle with traffic noise, flushed toilets (a not-too- subtle take on the state of humanity in 1971), a groovy Hammond B3 and rockin' guitar riffs. The album also includes a five-minute, free jazz piano-flute duet called, appropriately, "Free Country."

For many jazz fans of a certain age, Chicago—at least in its earliest incarnation—was the gateway drug that led to Miles and Diz and Chick and Trane. It's still great music for fans of psychedelic rock and jazzy experimentation.

Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago Multiple Reviews Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 21, 2017
Read New, Notable and Nearly Missed Multiple Reviews New, Notable and Nearly Missed
by Phil Barnes
Published: January 25, 2017
Read Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas Multiple Reviews Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas
by Doug Collette
Published: January 14, 2017
Read Weekertoft Hits Its Stride… Multiple Reviews Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…
by John Eyles
Published: January 7, 2017
Read Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio Multiple Reviews Ivo Perelman: The Art of the Improv Trio
by Jim Trageser
Published: January 4, 2017
Read 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon Multiple Reviews 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 3, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!