Chi-Town Transit Authority presents music of Chicago on Monday in Centerville



As a trumpet player, Chris Horton is well acquainted with playing the music of Chicago, one of the most successful and enduring of the American pop-rock horn bands. In 2017, he formed Chi-Town Transit Authority, performing in a Miami Valley Community Concert Association program at Centerville Performing Arts Center in Centerville on Monday.

While it was part of Horton’s musical DNA, the concept of this Atlanta-based group was prompted by a friend who happened to be a booking agent. This led to immediate work for Chi-Town Transit Authority, which plays a cross-section of material from Chicago’s career from the 1960s to the present.

“An agent friend of mine called me out of the blue,” Horton said. “He said, ‘Is this the Chris Horton that used to play trumpet in high school.’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and he told me there was a need in this market for this kind of a band. It was originally supposed to be a college group when I started it.

“Due to the lack of familiarity with the music, I couldn’t find any young players,” Horton said. “Popular music has a shelf-life, and they just weren’t interested. I got some different players, people who were familiar with the music, and away we went. It worked immediately and we’ve been successful ever since.”



A hot start

Chi-Town Transit Authority played its first gig at the performing arts center in Greenwood, S.C. on January 12, 2017.

“We had barely enough music to play the job,” Horton said. “We sold the place out the very first job we ever played. We were very fortunate we also had agents to book us. There were a number of groups eventually that were very interested in being associated with getting us work. That was great. People think if you have a good product, the world will beat a path to your door. That’s simply not true.

“If you’re not willing to go out and expose the movers and shakers to what you’re doing, you’ll end up playing in your basement,” Horton said. “We’ve always been very forward thinking in going after new venues and educating people. We have an advertising budget, so we advertise quite a bit because we have a very good show. We have great players in every slot and the music speaks for itself.”

The players

According to Horton it took several years to land on the current lineup.

“We started with a lot of different people but there has been a core of four people,” Horton said. “Michael Cahen, me, Thom Jenkins and Tom Davis have been through all the different configurations. We’ve had 10 other people come and go. Some people think they’d like to do this and then they find out you actually have to travel to Tennessee to get to a gig in Tennessee. Now, we pretty much have the most professional group we’ve ever had. We have more people with international experience.”

Members of the group have played with acts like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Cab Calloway and the house band for the Atlanta Falcons. Horton has his own unique credits.

“Off and on I worked for Columbia Artists in the Broadway touring division,” he said. “I worked with the Guess Who, Billy Joe Royal, BJ Thomas and the Spinners. I did ice shows and Ringling Brothers. It’s almost embarrassing. I’m still trying to get it all on one page.”



The music

Chicago, which indeed hails from the Windy City, has been active since 1967. The rock band is known for its prominent use of a brass section. Of the group’s albums, 23 were certified gold with 18 going platinum and eight multi-platinum. In October 2015, Chicago was ranked ninth on Billboard’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. A big chunk of Chi-Town Transit Authority’s repertoire comes from ‘70s-era Chicago but there are selections from the ‘60s and beyond.

“Chicago has like 60 years of music behind them, so we try to touch every period,” Horton said. “There’s a lot there. We have a few deep cuts, but we designed it so that anybody who likes Chicago will hear something they like. Chicago had a number one hit on adult contemporary last year, but we don’t do that one yet. The problem is they have so much good material so it’s hard to decide what to play. It may not have been a hit but if it was on a Chicago album it was fantastic.”

For Horton, the key to Chicago’s music is its universal appeal.

“It’s hard to have a bad show with their music,” he said. “I kind of worked my way through college playing in a band in Atlanta that did Chicago. I loved every minute of it. For people who play, one of the things that’s exciting about Chicago is the charts they orchestrated over the years. They’re very musical but they’re still challenging enough to keep your interest up. It’s not just playing it, though, it’s also the reaction of the audience.

“It reminds them of inspiration and finding somebody you’d do anything for,” Horton added. If you go down the list, they touched the human experience. It’s that simple. We’re doing Chicago’s music and when you do that people respond. I’ve played this stuff for years and I never get tired of playing it. I never get tired of the audience reaction.”

How to go

Who: Miami Valley Community Concert Association presents the Chi-Town Transit Authority

Where: Centerville Performing Arts Center, 500 E. Franklin St., Centerville

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday; doors open at 7 p.m.

Cost: $40

More info:

Artist info:

About the Author