Dec 12, 2023: Katherine Genereux together with Robert Williston present NJF exclusive to citizenfreak.com
Amidst the dynamic punk scene of 1980s Toronto, the evocatively titled 'Negro Jazz Funeral' (NJF) burst onto the scene as a transient yet formidable presence. Established in 1983 by Michel 'Mike' Tremblay, Bill Genereux, Katherine Genereux, along with Gary Galassi, the band's distinctive style left an indelible mark.
Accusations of racism surfaced due to the name 'Negro Jazz Funeral.' However, it was never intended to be racist; rather, the choice was born out of thoughtlessness and insensitivity. The name originated during a conversation at the café where Mike and Katherine worked. A cook enthusiastically shared his experience of witnessing a "Negro jazz funeral" during his recent vacation in New Orleans. Captivated by the uniqueness of the event, we impulsively adopted the name, believing it captured the essence of what we found intriguing.
The band's transformation into 'NJF' in 1984 marked a pivotal moment, accompanied by the departure of Gary and the arrival of Greg McKenzie. The opening track 'Wounded Knee,' introduces us to a raw and emotional journey, beginning with a poignant snippet recorded during a practice session, a touching tribute to Mike, whose voice echoes through time. Katherine notes: "Putting the title 'Wounded Knee' at the top of the songlist was a visual decision. no logic involved. it also led to confusion as to A side vs B side. oops. in actuality the record opens with a tiny snippet recorded on a boom box at a 'Negro Jazz Funeral' practice... you hear Mike's voice say: "Ready?" (guitar player Bill answers: "Ready.") ...our way of having our dear departed friend on the record with us. his voice never silenced..."
'Drag It Out,' carries profound significance, built around a bass part brought by Mike the first time they played together. Tragically, the shadows of despair descended upon the band with Mike's untimely death in 1984, a painful event triggered by a reckless encounter with unfamiliar psychiatric medication.
Released in the fall of '84, their lone 7” record encapsulates the essence of NJF's brief yet impactful existence. The intricacies surrounding the band's name contribute an extra layer of fascination, mirroring the shifts in the lineup and the deep resonance of personal tragedies. Gary, having discovered Mike's lifeless body, found any interaction with the band to be a painful reminder, prompting a cessation of all communication.
Bill Genereux, now known as William, has transitioned to a retired entertainment lawyer. Katherine's journey, filled with highs and lows, demonstrates resilience navigating the challenges of life, love, and loss, she continued playing in other bands, but is now retired.
Greg McKenzie, the sole member still actively involved in music, resides in Gatineau Hills, near Ottawa, continuing to share his talents through YouTube.
Hugo von Levitzow, quietly living in Eastern Ontario occasionally sharing glimpses of his life on social media.
As time marches on, the surviving members find solace and connection with 'NJF' fans worldwide, a testament to the enduring power of their music. In a heartfelt reflection on the past, Katherine expresses gratitude for the opportunity to share the band's story in the 21st century: "p.s. thanks Robert for putting 'NJF' where I can send people to find it!)
'Wounded Knee' by NJF serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the enduring power of music to transcend time. This release encapsulates a moment in history, immortalizing the spirit of a band that faced adversity head-on and left an indelible mark on the hearts of those who have discovered their music.
Katherine notes: 3 of the 4 songs from the record can be found on YouTube - but they're unauthorized. the photos that come up with 'happysad' were taken more than a year after the demise of the band. the people in those pics - apart from me - had nothing to do with 'NJF'... in fact, all but two are complete strangers - even to me."
-Robert Williston and Katherine Genereux
Katherine Genereux (nee Latanville): lead vocals, bass
Bill Genereux: guitar
Greg McKenzie: bass
Michel Tremblay (Brat X, The Crimps): drums
Hugo Von Levetzow: drums (replaced Mike)
Gary Galassi: vocals
Arranged by Katherine Genereux (Wounded Knee)
Lyrics by Gary Galassi (beloved friend and poet extraordinaire)
Produced by Tod Cutler of 'Stürm Group' and 'Norda'
Recorded at Wellesley Studios original location, mixed, mastered, and pressed over the next few months
Released in the Fall of 1984
Cover artwork by Katherine Genereux and Bill Genereux (Katherine fudged the lettering from doodles Mike had done)