Leonid & Friends are bringing the hits of American supergroup Chicago to life this week in downtown Owensboro.
The 11-piece contemporary jazz-rock band, originally from Moscow, will be performing at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, at the RiverPark Center, as part of its 32-date tour.
In 2014, Leonid Vorobyev, the band’s musical director and leader, started the project when he turned 60, after years of working in the music business as a recording engineer and sound producer. While other folks were considering retirement, Vorobyev wanted to keep going and decided to “deconstruct” songs from the rock group Chicago, a group that Vorobyev grew fond of, by transcribing and replicating Chicago’s ’60s and ’70s studio recordings by ear, with some artistic liberties.
Vorobyev invited friends, who are musicians throughout Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, to join him on this new musical journey, with the sole intention of being based in the studio.
The band stayed hard at work and recorded its live sessions and uploaded them on YouTube. A chance viewing by Danny Seraphine, drummer and founding member of Chicago, put the band on the map. After Seraphine featured Vorobyev and company’s video clips on Chicago’s official website, fans started to pour in — with over 50 million views and counting and 200,000 followers on Facebook.
With newfound fame and respect from the Chicago members, there was a demand for more content, leading to live and well-attended performances in Moscow and three Chicago-cover albums featuring hits like “Questions 67 & 68,” “If You Leave Me Now,” and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.”
Before long, the band made its United States’ debut at Sony Hall in New York City, before playing three sold-out shows at Village Studios in Los Angeles in January 2019, and it was given “The Chicago Award” at the Rock Justice Awards, with Seraphine and Chicago’s keyboardist Robert Lamm in attendance to congratulate the group on its growing success.
Rich Jorn, executive director of the RiverPark Center, was attending the International Entertainment Buyers Association (IEBA) in Nashville when he saw the band’s set for the first time in 2019.
“They were just amazing,” Jorn said. “Everything was just so dead-on (with) the musicianship — the band was tight, the vocals were tight. Everything was just perfect.”
While the band continues to play Chicago’s discography, it has diversified its repertoire to include songs from Blood, Sweat & Tears, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Rolling Stones and Steely Dan.
The group also dedicates time for Ksenia Buzina, a contestant from Russia’s adaptation of “The Voice” and the band’s lone female vocalist, to take center stage, showcasing her singing and piano talents.
Jorn is looking forward to sharing Leonid & Friends’ talents with a wider audience.
“That’s my biggest thrill of my job,” Jorn said. “Of course, people … have their bands they can say that they like, that they love, and they follow …. But, the biggest thrill to me is to bring something that people aren’t familiar with …. I want to expand people’s appreciation for all things art, music and theater.”
Jorn doesn’t think attendees will be disappointed come showtime.
“This is great music (and) a great story,” Jorn said. “And, I mean this in absolute no disrespect, but if you bought a ticket to see the current lineup of Chicago and bought a ticket to see Leonid & Friends, Leonid & Friends is the better band. They’re gonna sound more like Chicago than Chicago.”
Tickets are on sale at riverparkcenter.org.
Freddie Bourne, firstname.lastname@example.org