MEET THE BAND
Dennis Amato joined Tuxedo Junction in 2016, invited to join after he had been listening to the band for about a year.
What do you like most about playing with the band?
“Music is a passion for everyone who plays an instrument. And when you see someone play, they are sharing their passion with others. Music is what unites people in love and in sorrow. The live band, the band itself, the flavor it puts on the musical piece, a lot of times you’re not playing exactly like the record, sometimes it’s better than the record. The atmosphere – it’s like the difference between watching baseball on TV and going to see the game.”
When did you start playing the drums?
“I started taking lessons as a kid from my cousin Artie. When I was 13, I wanted to give it up for football. But I didn’t have the guts to tell him, so I stuck with it. When I was 15 my dad would take me to the Italian American Club in West Haven, and I started playing cha chas and mambos. I got paid $15 a night, and I was sold – I played there for 9 months and then, when I got my drivers license, started playing with other bands. I eventually started playing with a classmate in the band Bitter Sweet, and that’s when I really started to play professionally.”
What’s your advice for someone learning a new instrument?
“Be patient, and stick with it. It takes a lot of practice, but there comes a point when you can play with your heart, and you can make a beautiful sound that all people can enjoy.”
I heard about Tuxedo Junction at the Essex Jazz Festival over 20 years ago, and have been in the band ever since. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a relaxed group of people, and everybody is here to have fun.
There are a lot of good musicians in the band. We're really lucky to have a wonderful woman who runs this band. That is part of what makes it a lot of fun, too.
Live music is so special - anything can happen when it’s live. There can be mistakes, but mostly there can be some really awesome things coming together.
Charlie Delinks joined Tuxedo Junction in 2005 when he was asked to sub by Eva Cheshire, who is now his wife. He’s been playing with the band regularly since 2015.
When did you start playing the trumpet?
I’ve been playing the trumpet since I was 10, so for over 60 years. Music is more important to me now than it was when I was younger. I was supposed to be a music major in the ‘60s but I never wanted to play in a marching band or in an orchestra pit. I’m 72 now, and I’m still getting better. Eva and I are husband and wife now and are in two bands together - we run one band ourselves. We’re very lucky to share that interest, to have that bond – music.
Do you prefer live or recorded music?
Live music. It’s a living thing. You’ll hear mistakes that you don’t hear on a record, and you’ll hear things that are excellent that have never been done before such as ad libs and solos. Sometimes you hear what has never been played before. It’s been made up right there, on the spot. That kind of chemistry doesn’t happen on a recording that is carefully edited.
What do you like most about playing with the band?
Tuxedo Junction is a fun band, pretty low pressure. It’s a lively, friendly environment so there’s no stress – everybody is happy, the audience is happy, the band’s happy. It’s basically like a family band: everybody knows each other, works together.
What advice do you have for someone learning a new instrument?
Don’t give up when the novelty wears off a little bit. Just put in the time – you have to pay your dues, But then, all of a sudden, you’re making music. Too many kids give up when the blush is off and it’s become a little bit of work. When you start getting better it’s more work, more practice – but it's worth it.
NICOLE MARIANI DEAN
Nicole Mariani Dean joined Tuxedo Junction in 2016 after her family had stopped by Bill’s to hear the music a few times. She started playing as a saxophone substitute, but quickly moved over to playing the bass.
When did you start playing the bass?
“I started on an electric bass in middle school. Some friends and I wanted to start a band, but we had a mismatch of instruments. Our band director was helping us out, and he said, ‘You guys need a bass player if you want to get any better than this.’ He asked if anyone wanted to try playing bass but no one in the group had ever played it before. I liked learning instruments so he taught me how to play, and I’ve progressed from there.”
What do you enjoy about playing with the band?
Tuxedo Junction is a laid-back kind of group, and really fun. But some of the charts give me an opportunity as a player to practice and expand my range. Everyone is here having a good time: people dance, and there’s a lot to be said for the energy in the room when you’re playing.
Any advice for someone learning a new instrument?
It can be difficult at first. But don’t quit, no matter what you do. Every instrument has its trajectory of ups and downs – just stick with it. Try to get involved in a group that plays out! Some people get stuck in the trap that all they do is practice and play recitals. That can bore some people, and it bored me. It’s much more fun to start a group, join a group, have a reason to get out there and play. And it makes it much easier to learn.
"I've been in the band twenty years, and I’ve been playing the trumpet since seventh grade. I like the place we play and the people we play with. Live music is ALWAYS better than a recording - it’s more fun to watch people playing live than listening to a recording."
I’ve been playing the trombone for about 55 years. My college friend, Harvey Martin, brought me to a rehearsal.10 years ago, and I've been playing with TJ ever since. My favorite thing about Tuxedo Junction is that the leader and the people in the band are really nice people. We play for fun, and we enjoy doing what we do.
Live music is so special because you hear what the instruments sound like, and you feel the vibrations. There are a lot of things you miss in digital music. In live music, the soloists create something new each time they play..
I came to the Cherry Blossom Festival four years ago and Tuxedo Junction was playing. I told Pat that I played sax, and she invited me to the band's rehearsal at Bill's. I've been in Tuxedo Junction ever since. My favorite thing about it is that the people in the band really love music. It’s special because any song we play will be different every time.
I played the trombone in Bridgeport's Black Rock School. In Bassick High I won the Sousa Award. And while majoring in Pharmacy at UConn, I played in every band I could - concert, perp, marching, etc. When family and career took over, I stopped playing for more than 20 years. But I started playing again with Tuxedo Junction.
I have been playing with Tuxedo Junction for 15 years. My wife of 42 years, Joanne, co-sponsored the production of the band's album and when I looked at the cover, I recognized one of my co-workers, Amanda Caswell. At work the next day, I told Amanda that I play the trombone, and she invited me to the next rehearsal. Pat needed a trombonist that night, and I've been there ever since.
I love the music, the timeless genre, the big band sound. And I love the camaraderie. I was able to jump right in and play. We're not over-rehearsed - we have fun, and it all works.
There's an advantage for everyone being part of the live music scene. You get a good appreciation of the performer. There's nothing like live music.
"I've been playing the trumpet since I was in the fourth grade. I heard about Tuxedo Junction from Charlie Delinks and Eva Cheshire – they invited me to play tonight.
"Everyone has been super welcoming. I like being around people who are very engaged in music. I love being around that kind of experience.
"Listening to live music? There’s no way it could be better. You can feel the vibrations, you can see it, and be a part of the whole experience.
I am a middle school teacher, and I always tell my students to play out as much as they can. I try to live what I preach."
"I started in the band as a substitute – I’ve played for a couple months off and on. I first heard about Tuxedo Junction from Charlie Weyant. My favorite things about it is the music we play, and having a good audience every week.
"Live music is special because it’s real people playing music, and things can happen – good and bad things, but usually good things. My advice for young musicians is to work really, really hard at it. You’ll be glad you did.”
Baritone and Soprano Saxophone
I joined Tuxedo Junction in October 2011. I was working at the Neighborhood Music School one Sunday when I met Pat. She needed a sub the next day and said to me, “Hey, do you want to come to our rehearsal and play sax?” and I said, “Sure!” I’ve been with the band ever since.
My favorite thing about Tuxedo Junction is that it gives me a chance to play out with musicians who are a lot better than I am. I also get to play music that I don’t hear much anymore - there’s a lot of it rolled in.
With live music, anything can happen. A good, well crafted album can be fantastic, sure, but with live music anything can happen. You get moments of real ‘amazingness’, and every now and then you get a total train wreck. That excitement is pretty cool."
I play other instruments but tenor sax is what I play in Tuxedo Junction. I’ve been with the band for about seven or eight years but I’ve been playing at Bill’s Seafood for probably for 20 or more years.
I like the friendship of everybody who is here. We get along really well. We’ve been working on trying to make things right in our music, so that’s what I like.
There’s isn’t anything but live music for me. I enjoy doing this and being here.
“Mom, look at this,” I said breathlessly as I arrived home from third grade one day, presenting my mother with a flyer soliciting signups for music lessons at school. “I want to play trombone.”
That began my life-long passion for music. I love music. I love classical music. Mozart and Schubert are my favorite composers. I love Willy Nelson, Ray Charles, BST, The Blues Brothers. But my passion is jazz, Big Band Jazz: Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson. When I was in school in Boston we used to go see these guys all the time. There is nothing like sitting right in front of the band in a small intimate club and being enveloped by the music.
I played in every musical activity I could throughout school, even my own band. Then my career kept me from playing for 45 years. But when I retired four years ago the first thing I did was dig out my horn and start blowing again. Playing for a live audience that likes our music is the best. We just want to play and to play for people that, like us, want to keep Big Band music alive.
Okay, time to swing, cats!
Pat asked me to sit in one week with Tuxedo Junction while she was looking for a full time piano player. That was 15 years ago. Monday night rehearsals have been on my calendar ever since. As well as the many gigs the band has played…indoors and outdoors, publicly and privately, up and down the entire east coast.. since then.
I like the professional approach every member of the band brings to the music every week. And the energy- which all starts with Pat - and the authentic swing band sound we produce. The music is timeless. It's great to hear, but the real joy comes in playing it. And knowing the big band sound is alive and well … even in the 21st century!
AMANDA CASWELL CHAVIS