This January I had the distinct pleasure of catching up with Chicago’s Tris Imoden. My timing could not have been any better; Tris was celebrating his 25th year with the iconic band and it was my pleasure to be a part of that celebration.
When I met Tris and spent some time with him at his California residence it became clear to me why he was in Chicago and why he was now the band’s longest standing drummer. Tris is one of those people who makes you feel like you’ve been friends for some time even though you just met. Down to earth is an understatement. So, there is the immediate personal touch; something that is sometimes lacking in today’s world. But being a nice guy won’t get you into and keep you in Chicago. You also need talent; lots of it.
Tris, as many of you know, was the master rhythmic architect who designed the drum parts to the timeless hit “Footloose” (circa 1984). I give him a lot of credit for that because like the song or not, it’s still popular and I attribute a good amount of that popularity to the drum tracks…. infectious.
However, there’s more. Much more. Besides a twelve year stint with Kenny Loggins Tris has appeared with Neil Diamond, Richard Marx, Steve Vai, Roger Daltrey, and Crosby, Still & Nash, just to name a few. But this particular day in January while huddled in Tris’ kitchen, he shared with me a live recording of Moondance by Anita Baker which was recorded with Al Jarreau’s band at Montreux in 1986. Tris was on drums and his work on that tune was fabulous. That recording was a real treat and worthy of a perusal on You Tube. And this was all in addition to Tris’ work with Chicago. Talk about a comprehensive portfolio.
Considering everything, then, the fact that Tris has performed (harmonica and all) with Chicago for 25 years is really not a shock. I think the band got it right and landed the best man for the job. They needed a special player who could emulate all the sounds and styles required for the performance and, a player who could adapt over time to whatever the band asked of a rhythm section. They also needed a drummer who could step in and fill some rather big shoes left by the still popular and original drummer, Danny Seraphine. The ability to do the latter cannot be underestimated and should not be taken for granted.
And I know there is a large sentiment of folks out there who continue to pay homage to Danny Seraphine and rightly so; he was an original member worthy of respect and the musical engineer of some of Chicago’s classic rhythms and drum fills. Danny’s ability and talent have never been questionable. But, with 25 years of touring, recording, and hard work now under his belt Tris has taken the forefront in Chicago lore as their drummer. Furthermore, when one looks at Tris’ body of work spanning his career there is little mystery as to why Tris is one of the most sought after and respected drummers in the business. His resume speaks for itself. A fitting title for a good man and an incredible drummer.
So let’s get on with the celebration; 25 years! Please enjoy my chat with the great Tris Imboden.
Ken “K Bo” Biedzynski