Galvanized Jazz Band • Remembering Noel

All profits from sales of this CD will go to Noel Kaletsky’s family. Contact Fred Vigorito at [email protected] or (203) 453-5916.

Noel CDIt saddens me that no group from the younger generation, which I consider myself a part of, plays quite what I hear in the old recordings of the Galvanized Jazz Band’s weekly sessions. These are recordings made in the ’70s to 2010s at the various haunts the band has called home. The band is far and above what you might expect from a group of technically speaking “amateurs” with day jobs. For me, they exemplify a style unique to their time period, a time during which Traditional Jazz was maligned in memory and academia, but also filling dozens of festivals throughout the calendar year; when a regional band could age gracefully along with its following at a jazz society or standing engagement.

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Many of the younger bands today are research oriented, and often have a special appreciation of the more arranged hot dance bands of the ’20s that sometimes puts them at odds with their potential base. The GJB on the other hand comes at the tail of a long tradition of hot jazz where younger musicians had interacted with those from the earliest days of the music and everyone had their chance to play with the living giants from the generations that kept the fire burning in the ’40s, ’50s, and beyond.

They played jazz passed hand to hand. It was also jazz underground; while new forms of “serious” jazz flowed one to the next from the late ’30s on, musicians who valued the original structure preserved it under only occasional commercial encouragement, friends rehearsing in a side studio on the Disney lot, bands playing campus parties in the early rock era, eking out careers at jazz dives or pizza restaurants in the ’70s, or settling into a 50-plus year run at local restaurants like the GJB did.

The GJB sound is fun and hot, but also immensely experienced and engulfed in a musical something that sends sparks whenever the Connecticut based group meets up at the Millpond Tavern, the Chowder Pot, or, for the last 14 years, at Aunt Chilada’s. It’s a living, passionate music, personally expressive, joyful and celebratory of the casual rest found among friends out on a weekend. This music is not a recreation in any sense of the word, as it has become for most of the players under 50, it’s the music of a lifetime, discovered in childhood and accompanying your experience of the world into old age. I would encourage younger musicians to go find the groups like GJB that are still active in their area and get some time with them, breathe it in. Unfortunately, they are all looking for subs at this point.

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A seemingly endless number of GJB’s weekly and later monthly gigs were recorded in high quality. I am always thrilled with their collections, which seem to come several a year. I can pop them in for company without worry anything disappointing or dull will intrude. Imagine being a random diner at one of their shows. You wouldn’t even need to be familiar with this music to realize you had walked in on something special.

Each of their recent releases has a focus, one on Ellington, one (at least) on Jeff Barnhart who grew up with the band, another on a unique situation where nearly the entire group was replaced by subs. They have had countless guests stop in at their gig over the years, “The GJB’s Official Shameless Name-Dropping List” on their website includes over 100 of them. Some notables have joined them frequently enough to fill albums, Herb Gardner being the release I most recently reviewed. Several of the Galvanized Jazz Band’s recent CDs have focused on one of their guests after they passed, those include tributes to George Masso, and Steve Yocum.

Unfortunately the latest tribute is to an integral member of the band itself. Noel Kaletsky played clarinet and saxophone for the group for 53 years, his last appearance being in March 2023, just two months before his death at 85. A mainstay of the GJB he also played with other New England groups and on the festival circuit with a number of top acts including Tex Wyndham’s Rent Party Revelers and the St. Louis Stompers.

Reading Jeff Barnhart’s reminiscence from our July issue, a few things stand out. Jeff says “Noel was a person who grew happier and more content as he grew older.” Which is the measure of a well-lived life if anything is. The other is his humility about being paired with other reedmen at festivals, judging by his work on this collection, and the others I have so enjoyed, he had no cause for imposter syndrome. Noel Kaletsky was a remarkable musician who could really speak to the audience through his instrument.

While sometimes serious (consider the deeply moving rendition of “Amazing Grace” from 1986) the album isn’t a somber memorial; it captures the joyful celebration of life on the way back from the graveyard. The recordings are from between 1983 and 1996, and some have been remixed to accentuate Noel’s marvelous contribution. Highlights include a lyrical and swinging “Saint Phillips Street” and Jane Campedelli’s guest vocal on “After You’ve Gone.” Other guests include Howard Alden, Sammy Rimington, and Jimmy Mazzy, whose immediately recognizable voice can be heard on “When Day Is Done,” the album closer and a signature tune for Noel. The regular band includes Noel Kaletsky; Fred Vigorito, cornet; Bill Sinclair, Piano; Art Hovey, bass and tuba; Bob Bequillard, drums; Joel Schiavone, banjo; and no less then six trombonists over the 13 years featured. The lack of a regular trombonist being the entrance point for many of their guests.

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I encourage all of our readers, age 14 to 104, to pick up a few Galvanized Jazz Band albums, and if you are near Connecticut try to make a show at Aunt Chilada’s on the third Sunday of the month. You won’t find these fine albums on Spotify, you can order CDs from Fred Vigorito at [email protected],  or telephone him at (203)453-5916.

All profits from sales of this CD will go to Noel Kaletsky’s family. 

Joe Bebco is the Associate Editor of The Syncopated Times and Webmaster of SyncopatedTimes.com

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