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The band Chase was created in 1970 by Bill Chase, Ted Piercefield, Alan Ware, and Jerry Van Blair, all veteran jazz trumpeters who were also adept at vocals and arranging. They were backed up by a rhythm section consisting of Phil Porter on keyboards, Angel South (b. Lucian Gondron) on guitar, Dennis Johnson on bass, and Jay Burrid (b. Jay Mitthauer) on percussion. Rounding out the group was Terry Richards, who was featured as lead vocalist on the first album. In April 1971, the band released their debut album, Chase, which contains Chase's best-known song, "Get It On", released as a single that spent 13 weeks on the charts beginning in May 1971. The song features what Jim Szantor of Downbeat magazine called "the hallmark of the Chase brass—complex cascading lines; a literal waterfall of trumpet timbre and technique". The band received a Best New Artist Grammy nomination, but was edged out by rising star Carly Simon.
Chase released their second album, Ennea, in March 1972; the album's title is the Greek word for nine, a reference to the nine band members. The original lineup changed midway through the recording sessions, with Gary Smith taking over on drums and G. G. Shinn replacing Terry Richards on lead vocals. Although the first Chase album sold nearly 400,000 copies, Ennea was not as well received by the public. One likely reason was a shift away from trumpet sections. As Bill Chase put it in a Downbeat interview, "I don't want people to be heavily conscious of a trumpet section. They should just hear good things, but not be clobbered over the head with brass." A single, "So Many People", received some radio play, but the side-two-filling "Ennea" suite, with its tightly chorded jazz arrangements and lyrics based on Greek mythology, was less radio-friendly.
Following an extended hiatus, Chase reemerged early in 1974 with the release of Pure Music, their third album. Featuring a new lineup, yet keeping the four-trumpet section headed by Bill Chase, the group moved further from the rock idiom, and became more focused on jazz. Variety magazine called Pure Music "probably Chase's most commercial effort, and their brand of jazz could have a commercial impact". The songs were written by Jim Peterik of the Ides of March, who also sings on two songs on the album, backing up singer and bassist Dartanyan Brown.
Chase's work on a fourth studio album in mid-1974 came to an end on August 9, 1974. While en route to a scheduled performance at the Jackson County Fair in Minnesota, Bill Chase died at the age of 39 in the plane crash of a chartered twin-engine Piper Twin Comanche in Jackson, Minnesota. Also killed, along with the pilot and a female companion, were keyboardist Wally Yohn, drummer Walter Clark, and guitarist John Emma.
In 1977 a Chase tribute band (composed primarily of the original lineup, and added Walt Johnson) recorded an album entitled Watch Closely Now.
- Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 267. CN 5585.
- Jackson, Minnesota, "Plane tragedy near Jackson ends career of Bill Chase", Jackson County Pilot, 14 August 1974, Volume 84, Number 12, page 1.
- Szantor, Jim, Downbeat magazine, articles of February 4, 1971, and February 3, 1972.
- "New Acts" column, Variety magazine, March 13, 1974.
- "Obituaries" column, Billboard magazine, August 31, 1974.