The Musical Legacy of Chicago

Rockin' Orchestra - Brass Transit - the Music of Chicago (review)

Written by Tony Peters
Saturday, 04 October 2014 22:59

What happens when a cover band is actually better than the band that they’re imitating? That is most certainly the case with Brass Transit, a Chicago tribute band that joined the Dayton Philharmonic to kick off the 5th season of their Rockin’ Orchestra series at the Schuster Center in Dayton, OH. And imitate is not the right word, Brass Transit embodied the music of Chicago.

The band featured a stellar horn line that faithfully recreated the sophisticated arrangements of the original group (they even jumped into the crowd to solo at one point). Guitarist Bob McAlpine showed incredible versatility, laying back for the quieter moments like "Call on Me," then firing off searing licks that captured the spirit of original fret man Terry Kath, especially on their tremendous take of “Make Me Smile.” Drummer Paul Delong was a monster, even doing a wild drum solo during a medley of “I’m a Man” and “Free.”

The person that elevated the entire show into the stratosphere was vocalist Neil Donnell, whose multi-octave range had already graced several other Rockin’ Orchestra performances of the past. Here, Donnell nailed everything - he was gruff on “Color My World,” soared to dizzying heights on “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” and was buoyant on “Saturday in the Park.” His range and depth is truly unparalleled.

The band was delicate with ballads like “If You Leave Me Now,” (which sounded phenomenal with orchestral accompaniment), but managed to rock heavily on tracks like “Dialogue Parts 1&2.” The encore of “25 or 6 to 4” was truly moving. The typically subdued crowd was on their feet, furiously clapping along. The band even did an original song of theirs called “Last Time This Time,” which fit right in with the classic material. The audience was so moved that a large number of them stayed after to purchase CD's and get autographs.

I’ve seen Chicago 25 years ago, and they were nowhere near this good. Brass Transit led a high-energy, hit-filled evening that, with or without orchestra, is a must see. I've been to just about every performance of this Rockin' Orchestra series over the last five years - this was the best one, by far.

The Landis Theater marks its third anniversary with Chicago tribute band
The Brass Transit.

by Ryan Dinger

brass transit photoFans of Chicago will get a treat this weekend when “the world’s greatest Chicago tribute band,” theToronto-based Brass Transit, makes a stop at the Landis Theater in Vineland.

The eight-piece formed about four years ago when trumpet player, Tony Carlucci, had a vision for a one-night performance of Chicago songs by a band comprised of all the best session musicians in Toronto.

“Chicago has always been one of my favorite bands,from a very young age,” said Carlucci. “I had this idea to do a gig at a bar in Toronto, put together a supergroup of talent, and play Chicago tunes all night.

”So Carlucci began assembling a lineup for what was thought to be a one-time performance. He started by contacting vocalist Neil Donell, who has been dubbed “Canada’s most recorded voice.”

“I went after all the best guys that I knew from studio sessions,” said Carlucci. “That included the best singer. [Neil] was my first call. Considering that Chicago had three separate singers, I knew we’d need someone like him. He’s a chameleon. He can sound like anyone. On top of being a perfect-pitch singer, he can be a dozen different singers. Luckily, he was very open to the idea.

”After the rest of the lineup was in place, the band held eight or nine rehearsals. After that they were ready to go, and played their first show. They recorded the set and put a video of their performance on YouTube. From there, things took off like wildfire. The video received about 50,000 views, and suddenly the group was getting requests from other venues to come play as Brass Transit. At that point ,Carlucci ran with the idea, hiring a manager and seeing how far the band could go.

In the last four years, their reputation has grown rapidly, spurred on by an energetic live show that leaves fans in awe.“Our shows have a lot of movement,”said Carlucci. “We’re all wireless, so we have the luxury of going wherever we want. We’re not stationary. Members of the horn section end up in the audience,playing solos or playing horn parts.

”Along with the energy of the performance, it is also the goal of the band to perfectly replicate the Chicago sound.“Everyone in the group can sing, so expect to hear vocals stacked very high. Come and see the band and you’ll hear how Chicago sounded in 1972, note-for-note. It’s indistinguishable. You’ll hear complete precision and you’ll be taken back to the ’70s,” Carlucci promised. “We’re trying to conquer the world, one show at a time.

”But you don’t have to take Carlucci at his word. Brass Transit’s performances have been so impressive, that even the members of Chicago began to take notice.“The guys from Chicago invited us out to a few shows last year,” said Carlucci. “It’s developed into this little relationship. Anytime both bands are in the same area, we’ve gotten together. They’ve become fans of the band. And especially of ourlead singer, Neil. They are in awe of him and what he has been able to do. But it’s great to talk with them. We exchange tips.They’re really nice guys.”

Tickets for Brass Transit The Musical Legacy of Chicago at the Landis Theater Performing Arts Center are $50.
A very limited number of Club Level tickets are available for $70, which includes catered bar and light food service for purchase during the show. Tickets may be purchased online at, at the Box Office located at 830 East Landis Avenue, or by telephone at 856-691-1121

Brass Transit pays tribute to Chicago at Landis

Brass Transit brings the sounds of the band Chicago to Vineland on Saturday, May 11, to celebrate the Landis Theater’s third anniversary.

Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 3:30 pm | Updated: 7:11 pm, Wed May 8, 2013.


It was just four years ago when Tony Carlucci got the idea to recreate the music of Chicago with some of his favorite brass musicians and singers - just for fun. "I decided to put a one-time thing together to play in a bar," Carlucci says. "Chicago didn't come around (on tour) quite often enough. It was one of the first bands I got into as a kid. So I went out of my way to put a list together of who I thought were the best guys in the city - the country really."

The experiment was such a success that the group decided to start rehearsing regularly, and Brass Transit - The Musical Legacy of Chicago was born. At the band's second paid gig, someone took a video of their set. Carlucci's son encouraged him to upload the video to YouTube - something Carlucci admits now he was completely unfamiliar with at the time. "We put (the video) up … and the next thing you know, it was interest all over the world," Carlucci says. "So I started running with the ball. I never expected it to have legs."

Today, Brass Transit performs to sell-out crowds across the country and Canada - no easy feat when the real members of Chicago are still actively touring. The tribute band will come to the Landis Theater in Vineland 8 p.m. Saturday, May 11, as part of the theater's third anniversary celebration. The band, based in Toronto, Canada, bills itself as "the world's greatest Chicago tribute band," promising to recreate the sounds of classic Chicago as fans remember it from the 1970s and 1980s.

"They're going to hear the music of Chicago done with unbelievable precision," says Carlucci, the band's founder, band leader and trumpet player. "When you close your eyes, it will be exactly the same. We do it note for note, nuance for nuance. You get transported back to 1973." The band's show includes all of the hits from Chicago's golden age, including "25 or 6 to 4," "Saturday In The Park," "Feelin' Stronger Every Day," "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" and "Color My World." The band boasts a worldclass horn section, rhythm section and lead vocals from Canada's "man of a thousand voices," Neil Donell.

Brass Transit's musicians have performed with a variety of Hall of Fame rock and soul acts such as the Drifters, Sam and Dave, Aretha Franklin, Frankie Valli and the Mamas and the Papas. In addition to Carlucci and Donell, the lineup also includes Emmy Award-winning keyboardist Don Breithaupt, saxophonist Phil Poppa, lead guitarist Bob McAlpine, drummer Paul DeLong, bassist Jay Speziale, and trombonist Doug Gibson.

The group has grown and improved a great deal since that first YouTube video was posted, Carlucci says. The band, now much more comfortable with the material, interacts with and plays off the crowd, with the horn section often coming right down into the audience.

The members of the real Chicago, Carlucci says, also are fans of the group and have watched recordings of Brass Transit performances. "The music is done extremely well," Carlucci says. "It never gets tiring. It almost becomes a spiritual thing. All of us get very excited every time there is a gig. We play off the audience. It's impossible not to get excited."

Brass Transit

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, May 11
WHERE: Landis Theater, 830 E. Landis Avenue, Vineland
HOW MUCH: Tickets are $50.

A very limited number of Club Level tickets are available for $70, which includes catered bar and light food service for purchase during the show.

MORE INFO: Call 856-691-1121 or go to

'Fantastic showmen' | Canada's Brass Transit will re-create Chicago's hits during appearance at Arcadia Theater


Brass Transit group photoWINDBER — It is quite a feat to step on the stage and duplicate the sounds of one of America's most legendary horn bands.

Brass Transit, which is comprised of eight of Canada's most in-demand musicians and singers, will do just that when it presents the best of Chicago at 7:30 p.m. March 21 at Arcadia Theater, Windber.

"The band's show includes all the hits from Chicago's early years and some of their best," said Amy Moore, public relations director for the theater. "People will be amazed at the spot-on sound that Brass Transit will deliver."

With a world-class horn section, a rocking rhythm section and vocals stacked sky-high, Brass Transit will transport the audience back to the freewheeling days of the 1970s.

With Chicago's years of hits from 1969 to 1976, it's hard to decide what songs to put in the 90-minute show.

Hits from that era include "25 or 6 to 4," "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" "Colour My World," "Just You 'n' Me," "Saturday In The Park," "Feelin' Stronger Every Day," "Make Me Smile," "Wishing You Were Here," "Call on Me," "(I've Been) Searchin' So Long" and "Beginnings."

"This is going to be loud and fun," Moore said. "The horn section moves around all over the stage, and the trumpeter finds his way into the audience."

The band includes veterans who have performed with Hall of Fame rock and soul acts like the Drifters, Sam and Dave, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, the Marvelettes, Frankie Valli, Mary Wilson, Martha Reeves, Little Anthony & the Imperials, Del Shannon and the Mamas and the Papas.

Lead vocalist Neil Donel has been called Canada's most-recorded voice.

Originally hailing from Montreal, Donel has established himself as the premiere session vocalist in Canada.

"He is introduced as 'the man of a thousand voices' at the dozens of pop symphony concerts he performs annually across North America," Moore said. "The music of Chicago has had a big influence on their careers."

Moore said the goup has an Emmy Award-winner among its members.

Don Breithaupt, keyboardist and backup vocalist, grew up surrounded by music, including jazz from his piano-playing father, classical from his soprano mother and rock, funk and soul from the world around him.

"The keyboard performances are instantly recognizable and are a huge part of Chicago's signature sound," Moore said.

"In 2009, Breithaupt won an Emmy for outstanding orignal song for Nickelodeon's '6teen,' an animated sitcom."

Moore is anticipating an energetic show "with some fantastic showmen."

"Following the concert, the audience is encouraged to stay and meet the musicians in our lobby," Moore said.

"There's plenty of time to get a photo or autograph."


What: Brass Transit: "Tribute To Chicago."
Where: Arcadia Theater, 1418 Graham Ave., Windber.
When: 7:30 p.m. March 21.

Tickets: Available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at the box office, by calling 467-9070 or visiting

Cost: $34, $36 and $39.


Brass Transit brings Chicago to Mississauga

Brass Transit PosterMISSISSAUGA — They’re being called the world’s greatest tribute to Chicago. But it’s not Brass Transit’s management saying that. It’s the growing legion of fans on both sides of the border, who have heard this eight-piece Toronto group flawlessly rip through Chicago’s catalogue of hits from the '70s — classics like Make Me Smile, 25 Or 6 To 4, Call On Me, Wishing You Were Here, Old Days, Questions 67 & 68, and Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? On Thursday, March 28, they’re playing the local Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans Club, 765 Third Street, in a fundraiser for the annual Paint The Town Red Port Credit Canada Day celebration, with the fine Pretzel Logic (Steely Dan tribute) opening up. Brass Transit headlined last year’s Canada Day show in Memorial Park, and blew everybody away – and they’re topping the bill again this year, by popular demand.

Check out their videos ( and you’ll see why. Their live show really is studio quality. “It’s just mindboggling,” says veteran promoter John Kondis, who produces the Canada Day concert. “When we were doing the sound check last year, people kept coming up to us, saying, “Is that Chicago?”” Brass Transit has broken from the traditional model, where you build up a following in the Toronto bars, and then branch out further afield. Co-managed by long-time Mississauga agent Rob Taggart, and Atlantic City agent/producer Joe Donofrio (a six-time Grammy Award winner), they’ve worked Stateside as much as here from the outset — playing softseat theatres, casino showrooms, and large outdoor festivals.

“(We’re aiming) much higher,” says trumpet player, and bandleader Tony Carlucci. “It wasn’t meant to be a bar band at all. The first gig we ever did was at the Rose Theatre (in Brampton), and we shot a video.” They’ve already made waves at casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Las Vegas, Syracuse, and Connecticut. Around Toronto, they’re doing lots of festivals (Beaches Jazz Festival), and theatres (a spring 2014 date at Meadowvale Theatre), as well as corporate bookings. “These guys could be working every week,” Taggart says. “I turn down a lot of work.” “The American market is going to be our bread and butter. We’re getting huge money down there -- triple the figures.” Carlucci was admittedly “a bit surprised” by the responses. "But these guys rehearsed for a year before playing a gig, and come in totally prepared — with no charts!"

“It’s Herculean, (the effort) to do this 1.5 hour show,” he says. “The horn section is all over the stage, and into the audience doing solos.” That includes saxophonist Phil Poppa, a first-call Toronto session player, and long-time Mississauga resident, whose CD What You See Is What You Get was nominated as Album of the Year at the 2009 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. “It’s a phenomenal band,” he says.

“For a horn player, we don’t get the opportunity to stretch out that often.” In the mid-'80s, Poppa and Carlucci were bandmates in The Spoons, one of Canada’s most successful New Wave bands – still led by Mississauga-based singer/guitarist Gord Deppe. “Through that, a lot of doors opened for us,” he relates. “We were playing the Ontario Place Forum, and Maple Leaf Gardens on New Year’s Eve opening for Hall & Oates.”

The Brass Transit lineup also includes: singer Neil Donell (billed as “Canada’s most recorded voice” on sessions and jingles), Emmy-award-winning keyboardist Don Breithaupt, lead guitarist Bob McAlpine (Rik Emmett, Roger Whitaker), drummer Paul DeLong (Blood Sweat & Tears, Kim Mitchell), bassist Jay Speziale (The Meteors), and trombonist Doug Gibson (just off two dates with Paul Anka). And they’ve got quite the body of Boomer-friendly material to work with — in total, 20 top 10 singles, 12 top 10 albums, and 120-million-plus records sold.

Carlucci deems Chicago’s rock/jazz compositions “head and shoulders above”, and says their following in the States is, “fanatical”. Brass Transit themselves received SEVEN standing ovations at a Boston gig. “Our goal is, they want to do this full-time, and it’s going to happen,” Taggart relates. “2014 is shaping up really well.” Next up, they’re hoping to get into the Montreal Jazz Festival, are developing some merchandising (T-shirts, posters), and Taggart is, “working on getting the guys over to Asia and Europe.”

“We’re going to release an old rock favourite that was a big hit, and rerecord it in the style of Chicago, as a single,” Carlucci adds. “I think that will help a lot, getting us a little more cachet.”

Tickets are $30 per person for the March 28 show. Call 905-274-3821.

Monroe Evening News Brass Transit

July 26, 2011

An Open Letter of Recommendation,

The Bemus Bay Pops highly endorses the Brass Transit Organization. This group of professionals performed recently to a sold out audience on our Floating Stage. This is a class act well organized and they delivered a stellar performance that can only be topped by a return performance. The band leader Tony Carlucci, all the musicians and vocalist Neil Donell are as good as it gets. Our sound crew and staff complimented them as the best group of individuals to work with.

I highly recommend them and assure you that whatever venue they sign on to do will guarantee you an event to remember. On behalf of the entire Bemus Bay Pops organization we are proud to have them as part of the Pops family of entertainment and endorse them as the best of the best.

Respectfully Submitted,

Dan Dalpra Founder/Chairman

Valley Cultural Center Logo

November 15, 2011

To Whom It May Concern:

The Valley Cultural Center highly recommends the musical group, Brass Transit. They were chosen to perform the last performance of our highly successful annual summer concert series - "Concerts on the Green". They were simply an amazing, highly professional and extremely talented group of musicians who very accurately performed the lengendary songs of Chicago. Their musicianship was superb & their personalities equally delightful.

On behalf of the Valley Cultural Center, I will certainly have them back for a repeat performance and highly recommend Brass Transit.

Valley Cultural Center Signature

Turning Stone and Casino Review of Brass transit

Symphone Hall Article Brass Transit

August 19, 2012

To Whom It May Concern:

I recently had the pleasure of hiring Brass Transit for our annual fundraiser event here in New Bedford. This is the greatest group touring today, period! It was a sensational 90 minutes of Chicago's best, like Chicago used to be. These guys are Chicago, the way we grew up with the band. Not many bands receive numerous standing ovations, but I counted at least seven occasions where the large crowd could not believe what they were hearing and seeing, rising to their feet in appreciation to this terrific group. Don't miss them; hire them today, better than Chicago!! Period..............

Jim Thompson
Director of Entertainment, VP
Country Club of New Bedford


DENNIS GOMES - Owner/CEO, Resorts Casino, Atlantic City

"Truly amazing and outstanding musicianship. One of the best shows I have seen in a very long time!"
JOE DONOFRIO - Six-time Grammy Award-winning Record Producer

"This is not just a tribute band, it is t-h-e Chicago experience!"
KEITH BROWN - President, Aquarius Records

"Note for note is one thing, but Brass Transit brings the sound of Chicago's music to life!"
RIK EMMETT - Hall-of-Fame Rock Guitarist, Founder of Triumph

"Brass Transit presents an evening of first-rate, top-drawer, top-notch, high-class music!"
DAVID BENDETH - Platinum-selling Record Producer, former V.P., RCA Records

"I truly hope Chicago gets to hear this band!"
RICK GALLAGHER - Entertainment Director/ Turning stone Casino, NY

"Absolutely outstanding show, these guys have done their homework!"