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An exclusive interview with Walt Parazaider of legendary group Chicago

Courtesy Chicago Management

Walt Parazaider saxophone and flute player of the legendary group Chicago took some time out of his touring schedule to shed some light on the upcoming tour, Independence day release of their upcoming new album “Chicago XXXVI: Now, (which was recorded on the road over a couple of years with their new portable recording studio on the bus and hotel rooms);
and how the band keeps relevant and the secret to longevity in the industry. Parazaider says he’s excited to come to Bemidji and this happens to be the first stop on the spring tour this weekend. With deep humility in his voice and generosity he graciously says he’s at my service as the interview begins.

Shannon: What can fans expect with the new tour?

Walt: I think the people are going to be entertained with well over two hours of music, with some surprises, and some people will find that there will be familiar tunes that people will enjoy hearing. We’ve got a pretty good musical presentation that we are proud of as you know we are a touring band and have been for 47years and with this being the 47th year every year that goes by if we have people coming to shows year after year we’re going to make sure that the shows are fresh have a little bit of a different look and a few surprises because of all the people that have supported us all these years thank goodness!

Shannon: That’s extremely impressive that you guys are able to tour every year and not ever miss a year, what is the secret to that, how do you do it?

Walt: Well, sheer stubbornness! I’m making a joke you know, you are from our neck of the woods in Minnesota and we are Midwestern, We love what we do its about the music and we love to play it we love to see the rapport that we get from our audiences just the smiles and the joy on their face and just the sheer enjoyment of making people happy it’s a very addictive thing and it’s one of those good addictions.

Shannon: What is your secret to longevity, many bands start out strong and slowly die out over the years, how do you guys continuously keep your music fresh and relevant to your fans?

Walt: Well we love to play for people, we’re in the happy business I always say and we make those shows as great as they can be because if people are going to spend their hard earned money we’re going to definitely go out there and give them our one-hundred and twenty percent because they have come out and supported us all this time it’s about performing the songs which we think have held up after all this time and stood the test of time and different arrangements here and there and also throwing in a few surprises and I want to say that we’re so happy that we get to do something that we love to do and it’s because of you and the people out there that support us that allow us to do that and we really feel that it’s an honor and we do not take that lightly, so we’re going to just come in and have a blast and have a great party with you folks on Sunday the 27th.

Shannon: That’s refreshing to hear you say that, because there are a lot of bands that do not have that frame of thinking that you do and the humility that you have, it’s something that is very rare.

Walt: I don’t understand when people don’t wanna give it their all they say, “Ah jeez I don’t like to do this”, we don’t go to work really, we go to play. My dad was a six foot five trumpet player out of Chicago and he always said “you’re blessed to do something that people allow you to do and you love doing it, so go out there and play.” I’ve never said that I have to go to work so we go out there and we play, and we play for all you good people and the great thing about it is we’re throwing the party and people are coming so if nobody came I guess we would be in trouble.

Shannon: Do you think Chicago would have still been such a cultural phenomenon without the brass and horn section?

Walt: On that I would have to say being the saxophone player, that rhythm section would be nothing without us, (laughs) I’m making a joke when I say that the thing that is cool about the horns is that they are not just an accompaniment but they are an integral part of the songs. If I might brag for a second 47 years the horns section Lee Loughnane trumpet, Jimmy Pankow on trombone and myself on woodwinds it’s the longest standing playing horn section ever in the history of music, and we’re pretty proud of that.

What really has been terrific is we have always had three fine singers in the band with the rhythm sections great to play with the horns they are an integral part of the music which makes it an unique situation it’s not just an accompaniment here and there and that’s due to Lee Loughnane’s arrangement and Jimmy Pankow who has done quite a bit of the arrangements and he’s quite talented. I’m very lucky to stand in the middle of Jimmy Pankow and Lee Loughnane and to play music that they have set in front of me.

When I get done with this interview I’m going to practice as my dad would say a six foot five trumpet player, “If you don’t practice every day you’re not going forward, you’re not staying the same, you’re going backwards.” I always like to keep in touch with the horns, so I learn something new today that I didn’t know yesterday.

Chicago will appear at Sanford Center April 27 with a show time of 8pm.

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