Walter Parazaider very nearly became the principal clarinetist in the Chicago Symphony. Having been professionally groomed from the age of 9, his specialty was classical music. But then he abruptly abandoned that trajectory in 1967 to found one of the most successful bands of the 1970s and 80s.
“I’m sure his parents were having a heart attack. He bailed and never looked back,” said Kootenay saxophonist Rick Lingard, who recently assembled the 12-person Chicago tribute band 25 or 6 to 4.
Lingard has stepped into Parazaider’s shoes, and is bringing his group back for a Spiritbar performance on December 27.
“I admire anyone who does what they feel in their heart is right for them to do. For me, I was being groomed to be in the sciences. I was studying pharmacy, pre-med, and my heart said I had to do music.”
Lingard said the rest of the band has a similar driving ethos, and a professional commitment to musical excellence. Without them the group wouldn’t be possible.
“I’m just one cog in the wheel,” he said.
The band is driven by a four-person horn section consisting of Lingard on saxophone, Tim Bullen and David Ward on trumpet and Keith Todd on trombone. Todd lives in Whitehorse, but is in town for the holidays, so Lingard figured it was a perfect opportunity to reassemble his “dream team” of musicians.
Drummer Tony Ferraro, keyboardist Colin Spence, guitarist Darren Mahe and bassist Doug Stephenson round out the band, while singers Melody Diachun, Arron Nelson, Lisa Backus, and Sydney Black provide lead vocals.
Trumpeter Tim Bullen said he’s thrilled to be back on stage with 25 to 6 to 4 because they put a full year of work into developing their cohesive sound.
“We were all hoping there would be at least one more opportunity because we all worked so hard. We’re playing with all these great players and we’ve got all this energy going. I mean, we’re ready for the world tour,” he said.
Bullen describes himself as a “shorter version of Lee Loughnane” from the original band. He grew up listening to Chicago’s music, and describes himself as a “huge fan”.
“I was spending all this time playing horn in the school band and then here’s this really good group on the radio. They’re winning Grammys, they’re in the Top 40. It was inspiring.”
Bullen said he didn’t appreciate how complex and challenging the music was until he attempted to learn it.
“It’s pretty formidable. You don’t appreciate how good they are until you try it. Their time signatures? They were really thinking outside the box back then,” he said.
The horn section is particularly tricky, said Lingard.
“It’s a lot of work to get the proper inflections together. You might have a whole pile of notes all four of us play, but you need the right inflections, the right blends, the right lengths and falls and scoops. It all has to be done at exactly the same time at the same balance. Playing in a section like that is a real art.”
While the original band only had one trumpeter, Lingard decided to bring in two to “thicken” the sound.
“It’s such a taxing job, and we’ve got 24 tunes, so this way it allows them to spell each other out a bit, and it thickens the sound at some spots. Sometimes I sing too, so it allows all three horn ports to be there,” he said.
Their four performances earlier this year had an unexpected ease to them according to Lingard.
“Oddly enough it was some of the most challenging stuff I’ve ever played it my life, but I’ve never been so relaxed and not nervous. It’s probably because I trusted everybody in the band so much. Everyone’s got their part nailed and I knew it would work,” he said.
“I have a lot of trust in these people.”
Lingard said they hope to have more performances in the future.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun. I think it brings back a lot of good memories for people,” said Bullen. “People are going to get out there and dance. It’s going to be a hoot in the Kootenays.”
The show is on December 27 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Tickets are available from the Hume Hotel or online here.
To check out a performance by 25 or 6 to 4 on YouTube, click here.