By Laura Latzko
For Chicago trumpet and flugelhorn player Lee Loughnane, Arizona shows are like homecoming gigs.
Formed in Chicago in 1967, the iconic band will return to the Grand Canyon State to perform in Tucson on August 15, Prescott Valley on August 16 and Phoenix on August 18.
The band has been on the road annually for the last 56 years, taking a break for 15 months due to the pandemic. A Sedona resident since 2010, Loughnane says the band members sacrifice their personal life to entertain the masses.
“It is problematic not to be able to spend the time that most people get to spend with their families at home. To do what we do for a living, we have to take our music to the audiences,” Loughnane says.
In five decades, Chicago has sold more than 100 million copies of its 38 albums. Blending jazz, R&B, classical and pop, the hits include “You’re the Inspiration,” “If You Leave Me Now,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” “Saturday in the Park” and “25 or 6 to 4.”
Loughnane says Chicago fans can expect to hear songs from various decades, starting with “Introduction” from their first album.
“It’s a pretty well-rounded show,” he says. “It covers everything we have done and are doing.”
Loughnane is one of the three original members; he joins vocalist Robert Lamm and trombonist James Pankow. More than 50 years ago, they were the first nonclassical group to perform at Carnegie Hall six nights in a row.
The group was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014 and awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys in 2020. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
Loughnane says the group’s sound has evolved over the years as players change.
“The guys who have left for whatever reason, when they were replaced, it’s always been with somebody who is a good musician,” he says.
“They’ve grown up with the music as we did when we were playing it and writing it. They grew up listening to it. They have always fit in very nicely as members of the band by bringing their own personality to the same music they grew up with.”
When it started, the group had no idea it would be around 50 years later.
“It never happens. This is an anomaly. This is something that is pretty much impossible to do. We’re just living it,” Loughnane says.
On November 17 and November 18, Chicago will film shows at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City for a special called “Chicago & Friends.” It will be available for global distribution airing in late December.
Chicago will perform their biggest hits with guitar virtuoso Steve Vai, Robin Thicke and Chris Daughtry.
In celebration of the 55th anniversary of their double-platinum album “Chicago Transit Authority,” they will play songs from the album both nights, along with other greatest hits.
To have longevity like Chicago, it takes luck, consistency, dedication and hard work, Loughnane says.
“You have to keep yourself ready to play shows and be excited about playing the shows,” he adds.
“For us, that’s the reason that we are out there, the 22 or so hours that we are traveling, staying in a hotel or getting ready for the next venue. You have a lot of alone time, even if you sit down and eat with the other guys. Most of the time you are by yourself. You have to enjoy life and figure out how to spend quality time with yourself.”
He fills his days working out at hotels and playing music.
“I have my horn with me all the time,” he says.
“So, I always wake up in the morning or afternoon and start practicing, getting ready for the show. And get some food, a walk around the area, reacquaint yourself where you are because the night before, we were 400 or 500 miles away in a different city. Then, we traveled overnight to get to the next place, and by the time we get there, you wake up from the bus ride, check in to the hotel, go to sleep again and sleep as many hours as you can to keep yourself together. Then, you get up and start practicing and preparing for the next show.”
Although he mainly performs on flugelhorn and trumpet, he has played other instruments for performances and albums.
“I play a little guitar, background vocals mainly, a couple of lead vocals,” he adds.
“I play a little bit of keyboard, mainly to write songs on guitar and keyboard. I’ve played guitar onstage with the band a few times. And I was playing the Moog synthesizer for a number of years during the ‘Chicago 17’ and ‘Chicago 18’ tours. I was playing a lot of bass parts during that time. … We don’t hire other people to come in and do background vocals for us. We do everything in-house, the horns, the vocals, the playing, everything.”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 15
WHERE: Linda Ronstadt Music Hall, 260 S. Church Avenue, Tucson
COST: Tickets start at $65
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 16
WHERE: Findlay Toyota Center, 3201 N. Main Street, Prescott Valley
COST: Tickets start at $46
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, August 18
WHERE: Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix
COST: Tickets start at $68
INFO: 602-267-1600, celebritytheatre.com, chicagotheband.com