The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Brass Transit: The Musical Legacy of Chicago

When & Where 19 January 2023 at 8pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor David Bui Featured Performers Members of Brass Transit: Ian Jutsun – vocals, Don Breithaupt – piano & keyboards, Silvio Simone – lead guitar, Jay Speziale – bass guitar, backing vocals, Paul DeLong – drums, Tony Carlucci – trumpet, Doug Gibson – trombone & Phil Poppa – saxophone

Reviewer John Jane

Why are eight Canadian professional musicians forming a band to perform music by an American rock band? Brass Transit embodies the music of Chicago! The combo features a stellar brass section that zealously recreates the arrangements of the original band.

The band’s members have been around the Canadian music scene, collectively and individually for a couple of decades honing their craft with session work and playing live gigs. Don Breithaupt, who plays piano and keyboards in the band, is a songwriter in his own right. One of his original compositions “Last Time, This Time” was played by the guys in the second set.

lead guitarist Silvio Simone

Chicago was originally known as the Chicago Transit Authority founded by Peter Cetera Robert Lamm, Terry Kath, Danny Seraphine and James Pankow. Ultimately, they wisely shortened the name to Chicago, after the city that spawned most of its members. While the popularity of rock music has been overtaken by hip-hop in recent years, so-called classic rock still has a strong following among a certain demographic, as evidenced by a near full auditorium. Chicago’s music might be described as a “soundtrack to a generation” combining elements of jazz, rhythm & blues and pop.

The featured musicians kicked off the show with “Make Me Smile” and “Just You ’N’ Me” with the orchestra under the direction of David Bui providing lush strings and French horns. The latter tune is sometimes confused with “You’re the Inspiration” played later in the concert. It has the same time signature and a similar chord structure and even includes the lyric” and you’re my inspiration.”

Ian Jutsun takes on most of the vocals as well as being the de facto spokesman. Although, he didn’t spend any time announcing the songs – he likely assumed that everyone there knew the titles or didn’t care. He has a powerful tenor voice that is comparable to Peter Cetera who was Chicago’s main vocalist in the early years. His voice and personality come through with “Saturday in the Park” and “If you Leave Me Now” written by Peter Cetera.

I’m not usually a huge fan of prolonged drum solos, but drummer Paul DeLong pretty much blew the audience away with his wild solo on “I’m a Man” – probably one of the few cover versions that Chicago ever made. After an extensive intro by the orchestra for the next song “I’ve Been Searchin’ so Long,” lead guitarist Silvio Simone took the opportunity to play some intense solo riffs. Bass guitarist Jay Speziale, with some orchestrated vocal help from the audience closed out the first set with “Only the Beginning.”

After a Iengthy intermission, Ian Jutsun, who appeared to be having a problem with his earpiece, opened the second set with Robert Lamm’s timeless composition “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is?” from Chicago 1969 debut album. Jutsun and the guys deliver all the song’s artful quirkiness it deserves. The combo’s concluded their regular program with a high-energy, extended version of Peter Cetera’s autobiographical composition “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day.”

The evening ended, perhaps predictably, with the band performing Robert Lamm’s iconic “25 or 6 to 4” as an encore. The song has become a rock classic since Chicago first recorded it in 1970. Brass Transit absolutely made it their own.

© 2023 John Jane