California Transit Authority
Pioneering jazz-rock drummer and composer Danny Seraphine is a founding member of Chicago. Worldwide the iconic group has sold over 122 million albums, and, just domestically, earned 22 gold, 18 platinum, and 8 multi-platinum albums. In 1990, after 23 years in the group, Seraphine and Chicago had a jarring parting of ways, and he left music behind for 15 years. But a call to play a benefit show for a fellow drummer pulled him out of seclusion and sparked a creative rebirth.
Today, Seraphine looks forward with Sacred Ground (Street Sense), the sophomore record from his jazz-rock powerhouse group CTA—often described as “Chicago on steroids”—and he makes peace with his past with the refreshingly candid memoir Street Player: My Chicago Story (Wiley).
That benefit show was a real turning point for me. It was really emotional,” Seraphine recalls. “I realized I missed performing the Chicago material, that music really defined me as a player.” The night of the benefit Seraphine received a standing ovation. From that revelatory night he assembled CTA, California Transit Authority, a bold nod to Chicago’s roots as playing accessible but adventurous jazz-rock under the moniker Chicago Transit Authority.
Seraphine is critically acclaimed as an instrumentalist and a composer. Rolling Stone Magazine recently ranked him as one of the top 100 drummers of all time. When he was coming up on the music scene, legendary jazz drummer Buddy Rich called Seraphine his favorite young drummer. Recently he was awarded Cape Breton Drum Festival’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor he also received from the Montreal Drum Festival. He’s an endorsee of esteemed drum companies such as DW drums, Remo drumheads, Zildjian cymbals and drumsticks. He also has released a well-regarded instruction DVD titled The Art of Jazz Rock Drumming, distributed through Drum Channel. As a songwriter, Seraphine co-wrote the Chicago Top 40 hits “Lowdown” and “No Tell Lover,” as well as core Chicago tunes like “Little One,” “Take Me Back to Chicago,” “Show Me the Way,” “Birthday Boy,” and the irresistibly funky “Street Player,” later sampled by rapper Pitbull for the hit “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho).”
CTA is Danny Seraphine on drums; legendary guitarist/composer Marc Bonilla (Keith Emerson, Ronnie Montrose, Glenn Hughes, David Coverdale) on guitar and vocals; Travis Davis (Alice Cooper, Keith Emerson) on bass; Ed Roth (Coolio, Chad Smith, Rob Halford, Tom Morello) and award-winning film and TV composer Peter Fish on keyboards; and Wes Quave (Ricky Martin, Robin Thicke, Toni Braxton) and Will Champlin (Salvador Santana Band and son of former Chicago vocalist Bill Champlin) sharing lead vocals.
The band coalesced in 2006 around the nucleus of Seraphine and Bonilla. At the time, Seraphine was devoting his efforts to producing theater. “I was doing everything to stay away from playing drums. I was burnt out and disillusioned with the music business,” he says. Seraphine, however, couldn’t resist the chemistry he and Bonilla shared at an impromptu jam. “I hadn’t connected with a guitarist like that since Terry Kath (original Chicago guitarist who passed away in 1978), it ignited a spark,” Seraphine says.
CTA is built on Seraphine’s beloved music heritage of blazing brass, taut funk, searing guitars, and adventurous musicianship. CTA debuted with 2007’s well-received Full Circle, a euphoric collection of reimagined Chicago songs. Now CTA returns with the critically acclaimed Sacred Ground.
AllAboutJazz.com gives Sacred Ground a glowing review saying: “The title track is reminiscent of Chicago’s powerful sound, with the flavor of a new signature jazz/funk groove alongside a variety of other songs that are equally well-produced, including notable instrumentals like “Primetime” and “In the Kitchen”. Overall, the project is exemplary in terms of the band’s collective sound—a mixture of jazz, funk and solid original music for the new millennium. Other Sacred Ground highlights are “Full Circle” and “Strike (While The Iron Is Hot).” These exhibit the attention to detail and refined songcraft that epitomized Chicago’s 1970s pop-rock hits: pristinely soulful vocals, lush vocal harmonies, punchy horn arrangements, glorious song arrangements, and euphoric choruses.
A powerful companion to enjoy Seraphine’s new era of fevered creativity is his heartfelt, but brutally honest, memoir Street Player: My Chicago Story (Wiley).
The book spans his turbulent street-gang childhood to his meteoric rise to fame with Chicago. Seraphine writes with vibrant emotionality, recalling the struggles and victories throughout his iconic career. He also shares fascinating stories about touring with the Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, and other music legends.
For Danny Seraphine it’s been an awe-inspiring journey from the streets to the Top 40 charts, and then leaving it all behind only to return spiritually and creatively reinvigorated. “It’s been wonderful that the music world has welcomed me back,” Seraphine says. “I’m so excited to be putting out new material in this genre. We put a lot of love and care to do this music right.”