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Chicago singer to join tribute group for concert

By Staff | Mar 11, 2020

Jeff Coffey, who performed bass and sang lead vocals with Chicago from 2016 to 2018, will be performing Chicago songs and some of his solo work at Fish-Tale Marina March 19. PHOTO PROVIDED

Jeff Coffey, who performed as the lead singer and bassist with Chicago from 2016 to 2018, will join Back to Chicago, for a tribute concert to the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers May 14 at the Fish-Tale Marina on Fort Myers Beach.

The show is the final leg of the Winter Concert Series produced and presented by the Fort Myers Beach Friends of the Arts and will feature a two-hour tribute to the band known for songs like “Saturday in the Park,” “Hard Habit to Break,” and “If You Leave me Now.”

Coffey, who currently plays with Eagles’ great Don Felder, said the tribute band will open the show, followed by his solo acoustic set. He will be joined by Back to Chicago for the finale.

An Orlando native, Coffey said it was a “once in a lifetime experience” playing with Chicago and singing two-thirds of the songs at the shows. The legendary group, known for mixing rock with its prominent horn section, still tours and boasts three original members.

“It was my choice to leave,” Coffey said. “Musically speaking, I thought it was a great match but for other reasons it was a not-so-good match.”

Coffey’s tenor voice led to him replacing longtime bassist and singer Jason Scheff. Scheff had replaced founding singer Peter Cetera who pursued a successful solo career. “I had to learn 33 songs and memorize all the lyrics,” Coffey said. “It was a daunting task. I put the work in.”

He grew up listening to Chicago on the radio and was also influenced by Steve Perry and Journey, Sting, Van Halen, Honeymoon Suite and Mister Mister. His tenor voice took after those greats.

With a new solo record “Origins,” Coffey covers musicians like Sting, Rod Stewart, Don Henley and Foreigner. Four of the songs on the album are accompanied by pianist Michael Omartian, who is known for having produced Peter Cetera, Steely Dan, Whitney Houston, Amy Grant and Rod Stewart. Omartian also worked as a session musician for The Four Tops and was credited as a producer, arranger and keyboardist on the 1985 megahit “We are the World.”

Coffey recently finished playing rock cruises with Felder, which he said is like “band camp on steroids.” On one of the rock legend cruises, they were joined by Roger Daltrey of The Who and Ann Wilson of Heart.

They play a lot of Eagles songs, with Coffey singing lead on “Take it to the Limit.” They will hit Epcot Center in April.

Coffey has fond memories of his time with Chicago. He enjoyed “that immediate reciprocal reaction to the show.” The three original members of Chicago who still play with the group keyboardist Robert Lamm, trumpeter Lee Loughnane and trombonist James Pankow “are all stellar musicians,” Coffey said. “They are loving what they are doing. They will do it until they physically can’t anymore.”

What makes Chicago’s music special and why does it resonate more than 50 years after they formed? Coffey said their “beautifully written” mix of jazz and rock was something that wasn’t done before and brought a “unique sound that captivated people. It will live on forever.”