Me and Saint James

Blogtites! (as opposed to “Blogmites” I suppose)

What up? Well, I wanted to stay true to the “about” section of this cyber coap box (see what I did with the whole “C” = “S” sound thing? Oh-BOY! The English language is a HOOT!) and speak to “Concerto for Folded Space” by talking about one aspect of this exciting project: Jimmy Pankow.

(Above: Youtube video of me and Jimmy Pankow)

How about THAT? Yep, that is yours truly with THE MAN Jimmy Pankow: trombonist-composer with the legendary group Chicago. As with every trombonist of my generation that I’ve ever met, one of my first heroes on the instrument was James. How could you not dig flat-out big sound, extroverted solo style, sassy-soul phrasing and J.J. Johnson influences…..with a ROCK BAND!?

James Pankow was almost the only representative of my beloved instrument on the A.M. radio that we were all slaves to back in the 1970s. Plenty of vocals, guitar, bass, drums, piano, synth, sax, some trumpet…but trombone? Only Jimmy with Chicago, Dave Bargeron and Jerry Hyman with Blood Sweat and Tears, and the occasional blessed moment of Fred Wesley with James Brown. For me, every time a new Chicago album would be released I wold scour it for horn solis and trombone solos before digesting the whole work of art. Jimmy never disappointed and has been one of my most important “sonic templates” ever since.

So imagine my joy to now include James on a new recording adventure. As part of my “Concerto for Folded SpaceArtistShare project, “Saint James” will be joining me on two pieces. The plan is to fly out and hook up with him while the band is on tour this spring and add his tracks along with the spots we play together in whatever hotel they are staying in at the time. Now THAT is a snapshot of the 21st Century music biz. Even the multiple platinum Chicago itself is recording this way these days. Check this out:

(Above: Youtube video of Chicago horns Jimmy, Walt and Lee recording in a hotel room)

Is that COOL or what? One of the greatest horn sections of all-times laying down a track in a hotel room! That’s right. No need for studios, OR record labels in the digital age. Technology has liberated everyone (well, those who have money) to be able to acquire gear and software that is of the same level as the best-of-the-best in any professional house. However, one must have the expertise to operate said treasures. And of course Chicago et al have the tools AND the brains to “git ‘er done” which will result in a much-celebrated return to their creative roots. No suits, no restrictions. At this point, they have released two singles in this way and will keep ’em coming as the Muse speaks from out on the road.

Concerto for Folded Space is following this same brave new path. In my case, we will be putting together a Pro Tools “bed” for all of the music using The Eclectic Electric Band outside of the studio. Once this template is together, I can then fly it out to Jimmy and Bob (Mintzer) so that we can add their voices from the comfort of their venue of choice.

If you would like to take part in this project, surf on over to my ArtistShare page and sign up for one of the participation levels. I am posting all kinds of goodies there on a regular basis that are only available to participants. Here is a sneak-peek:

This is a snippet from a MIDI-Demo that I made for Jimmy and The Eclectic Electric cats. While it is fairly primitive and will pale in comparison to the finished recording (with humans 🙂 ) this mock-up using Logic Pro software gives everyone an idea as to what I’m thinking of with each piece:

So I have come from scouring Chicago albums in the 1970s for trombone goodies, to actually recording some myself along with the man who is now my good friend: Jimmy Pankow.

Life really IS grand when you think about it, ya know?

To learn more about “Saint James” and his amazing career check this out: I wrote this back in 2004 for the International Trombone Journal little knowing that it would lead to a Concerto for Folded Space. Coincidence? …I think not 🙂 Here is the text of my ITA article about Jimmy (sans amazing pictures…you will need to check a university library periodical section for the original ITA 2004 Issue, or join the ITA and get one of your very own!) 


About swiest2

Steve Wiest is a Trombonist-Composer-Cartoonist-Author and Coordinator of The 21st Century Music Initiative at The Lamont School of Music: The University of Denver
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2 Responses to Me and Saint James

  1. Mike Turner says:

    Steve, This is GREAT stuff!! I am totally jealous… I have loved Chicago since their very first album and always had an enormous amount of respect for James Pankow. Your playimg always reminded me of him and now you two are good friends… VERY COOL!!! Looking forward to the Concerto for Folded Space… I know it will be KILLER!!!

    • swiest2 says:

      Hi Mike! Thanks so much my friend. It is indeed amazing after enjoying their music for so many years to now have a chance to get to know the guys and especially my man Jimmy. He is super gracious and a cool person to boot. I am excited to hear him in the context of this project. I know that lots of trombonists out there will enjoy hearing him stretch out, and I can guarantee that he will have plenty of opportunity to do so in this “Concerto” It’s going to be a stone-cold groove fest 🙂

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