It was just four years ago when Tony Carlucci got the idea to recreate the music of Chicago with some of his favorite brass musicians and singers - just for fun.
"I decided to put a one-time thing together to play in a bar," Carlucci says. "Chicago didn't come around (on tour) quite often enough. It was one of the first bands I got into as a kid. So I went out of my way to put a list together of who I thought were the best guys in the city - the country really."
The experiment was such a success that the group decided to start rehearsing regularly, and Brass Transit - The Musical Legacy of Chicago was born. At the band's second paid gig, someone took a video of their set. Carlucci's son encouraged him to upload the video to YouTube - something Carlucci admits now he was completely unfamiliar with at the time.
"We put (the video) up … and the next thing you know, it was interest all over the world," Carlucci says. "So I started running with the ball. I never expected it to have legs."
Today, Brass Transit performs to sell-out crowds across the country and Canada - no easy feat when the real members of Chicago are still actively touring. The tribute band will come to the Landis Theater in Vineland 8 p.m. Saturday, May 11, as part of the theater's third anniversary celebration.
The band, based in Toronto, Canada, bills itself as "the world's greatest Chicago tribute band," promising to recreate the sounds of classic Chicago as fans remember it from the 1970s and 1980s.
"They're going to hear the music of Chicago done with unbelievable precision," says Carlucci, the band's founder, band leader and trumpet player. "When you close your eyes, it will be exactly the same. We do it note for note, nuance for nuance. You get transported back to 1973."
The band's show includes all of the hits from Chicago's golden age, including "25 or 6 to 4," "Saturday In The Park," "Feelin' Stronger Every Day," "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" and "Color My World." The band boasts a world-class horn section, rhythm section and lead vocals from Canada's "man of a thousand voices," Neil Donell.
Brass Transit's musicians have performed with a variety of Hall of Fame rock and soul acts such as the Drifters, Sam and Dave, Aretha Franklin, Frankie Valli and the Mamas and the Papas. In addition to Carlucci and Donell, the lineup also includes Emmy Award-winning keyboardist Don Breithaupt, saxophonist Phil Poppa, lead guitarist Bob McAlpine, drummer Paul DeLong, bassist Jay Speziale, and trombonist Doug Gibson.
The group has grown and improved a great deal since that first YouTube video was posted, Carlucci says. The band, now much more comfortable with the material, interacts with and plays off the crowd, with the horn section often coming right down into the audience.
The members of the real Chicago, Carlucci says, also are fans of the group and have watched recordings of Brass Transit performances.
"The music is done extremely well," Carlucci says. "It never gets tiring. It almost becomes a spiritual thing. All of us get very excited every time there is a gig. We play off the audience. It's impossible not to get excited."