The Millpond Taverne Years

by Art Hovey

The Millpond Taverne was the home of the Galvanized Jazz Band for 25 years, starting early in 1971. On most Sundays at least half of the crowd was "regulars", loyal fans who came almost every week and often arrived early to claim their regular tables. If one of them missed a Sunday several others would telephone them the next day to see if they were ok. Once or twice each summer the regulars organized an after-hours party in the parking lot; everybody brought food and drinks and tables to put them on, and danced by the light of the moon until the wee hours.

Occasionally we had visitors from other countries. For example, one night a French couple dropped in. On their way to New Orleans they stopped over in New York, took a train to New Haven and asked a cab driver to take them to the Millpond, as they had seen it mentioned in the Mississippi Rag. Although they spoke almost no English they had a wonderful time. One of the regulars drove them back to the New Haven Railroad station in time for the last train back to New York. A few weeks later they mailed a case of fine wine to us from their vineyard back in France.

I can't remember which country was the first, but one such visitor sent us a small national flag, which we hung over the bandstand. Soon others did the same; eventually the bandstand began to resemble a United Nations postcard. One group from Latvia and Lithuania actually risked arrest by hand-sewing a set of their forbidden national flags and somehow smuggling them out from behind the iron curtain.

In 1980 we began producing cassette recordings of the GJB, using material recorded "live" at the Millpond. Our first (GJB 001) featured trombonist and vocalist Herb Gardner; GJB 002 featured Nick Carella.

On February 1, 1981 we celebrated our tenth anniversary of Sunday jazz at the Millpond, flying in Conrad Janis from Hollywood just for the occasion. Millpond regulars decorated the room for the occasion, and extra tables and chairs were brought in to accommodate the crowd. Somehow the local fire marshal did not get word about it, or we would have been in big trouble. We were packed in so tightly that when we were presented with gifts and bouquets of flowers for our patient spouses there literally was no place to put them down. A recording of that evening's festivities was issued on cassette GJB 003.

GJB 004 was released later that year, featuring Joel Helleny. The only tune on that recording at less than breakneck tempo was "Basin Street Blues".

On January 17, 1982 we celebrated our eleventh anniversary by bringing together Sammy Rimington (from England) and Roy Rubinstein (from Chicago but originally from England too) for the first time anywhere. The cassette recording of that event (GJB 005) featured art work by Natalie Garvin, who had been passing us her sketches for some time. Sammy had worked with the Nutmeg Jazz band in Connecticut for a time around 1965, and had strongly influenced the embryonic Galvanized Washboard Band during that period. We had first met Roy Rubinstein around 1970 or 1971 when he was working with Bill Barnes & Joe Ashworth in the "Southampton Dixie Racing & Clambake Society".

For our 12th anniversary we brought in Jane Campedelli and Conrad Janis for a two-night extravaganza on February 26 and 27, 1983. Jane and Noel had been working with John Sheehan's "Heritage Jazz Band" out of Boston; when we heard them at a ConnTrad concert she knocked us out. Her first performance with the GJB had been that previous summer at a DownEast Jazz Festival in Camden, Maine, with Herb Gardner on trombone and Bill Whitcraft on piano. A cassette recording of the 12th anniversary celebration (GJB OO6) went back to California with Conrad, where it eventually ended up in the hands of the Hot Frog Jazz Band. Their version of "The Brahms Cradle Song", released some time later, is remarkably similar to the one on GJB 006.

The 13th anniversary, early in 1984, was an even bigger affair. On Saturday night we staged a huge concert at New Haven's newly-refurbished Palace Theater. Half of the show featured the "Fabulous Farquahr", as the McGowan brothers' popular group was called. We had known them since the Rockinghorse days; their repertoire was an interesting mix of Irish folk music, bluegrass, rock, and comedy. With our regulars and theirs we were able to fill the Palace. Joel Schiavone announced that it was the first time the Palace had been sold out for a traditional jazz event since Louis Armstrong's appearance in 1957. On the following night (Sunday) we repeated the show at the Millpond. A cassette recording of that evening's highlights was issued, but it bears no catalog number or recording date. Herb Gardner was our featured trombonist on those two nights.

For our 14th anniversary we brought back Conrad Janis and guest vocalist Carol Leigh for a two-night extravaganza on March 2 & 3, 1985. A cassette recording of the occasion was issued, GJB 009. I can't remember which visit it was, but on one of Conrad's returns to Connecticut he brought a young and little-known actress named Stockard Channing with him to sing a couple of tunes with the band.

Our fifteenth Millpond anniversary was one one of the biggest ever. During the winter of 1985-86 I had seen the Les Paul Trio on TV, performing mostly tunes in our repertoire. Wayne Wright was playing rhythm guitar in the trio, and he had already worked with us on a few occasions. I urged Fred to give Wayne a call to see if it would be possible to bring Les Paul to the Millpond, and he did. On March 8 & 9, 1986 we had Jane Campedelli and the Les Paul Trio as our guests, along with dueling trombonists Joel Helleny and Craig Grant. A cassette recording of some of the highlights was issued as GJB-015, the "red tape"; it turned out to be our all-time best seller. One cut from that recording, (in which I had the pleasure of "trading fours" with bassist Gary Mazzaroppi) has recently been re-issued on our compilation CD called "This Old Tuba".

Apparently we stopped having big anniversary events for the next few years, but on May 22, 1988 we brought back Sammy Rimington and teamed him up with pianist David Paquette and trombonist Matt Finders. Cassette recording GJB 016 was a compilation of material recorded on that memorable night. David Paquette had grown up in Milford; his parents (Fred & Filly) were strong supporters of traditional jazz and active members of ConnTrad. David had worked some with the washboard band during the late 1960's before moving to New Orleans. By 1988 he had a home and a steady job in Hawaii and was doing annual world tours. Matt Finders was living in New York at the time, working with some pretty big names. Eventually he moved to California, where he has been visible for many years in the "Tonight Show" orchestra.

In the spring of 1991 we decided to stage another two-night celebration for our 20th anniversary. On Saturday, April 20, we put on a combined concert with Yank Lawson & Bob Haggard's "World's Greatest Jazz Band" at New Haven's Palace Theater with George Masso on trombone, Kenny Davern on clarinet, Howard Alden on guitar, John Bunch on piano, and Bobby Rosengarden on drums. Then on Sunday April 21 we had Kenny & George join us at the Millpond along with Jane Campedelli and Bill Whitcraft. A cassette recording of that event was issued as GJB 20.

Although we did not have any major anniversary events for the next few years, we did record a concert for the Pennsylvania Jazz Society on October 10, 1992 with Herb Gardner and another concert at Music Mountain on June 26, 1993 with Craig Grant. Both concerts featured Jimmy Mazzy on banjo and vocals; what a treat that was! Selections recorded at those two concerts were issued on cassette GJB23, the "pink tape".

to be continued...........

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