(May 31)  For years, purist fans of traditional New Orleans jazz have worried their favorite music is a dying art form. Oh, sure, something like trad jazz, loud and frenetic with a side helping of street funk, might be played for many more years in tourist trap clubs. But the real thing, the small-group ensembles with syncopated rhythms and collective improvisation around identifiable melodies, the music whose heyday was in the late 1910s through early 1930s, seemed endangered.

After all, what once was a vaunted “new generation” of trad-jazz New Orleans musicians, led by clarinetist Dr. Michael White and trumpeter Gregg Stafford, is now marked by men at or near 70 years old. The two generations behind them feature some fun musicians with lots of brass, but their funky beats have only a passing resemblance to the sounds of jazz forebears Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton.

Enter the band Tuba Skinny. On a recent weekend on Frenchmen Street, the hottest two-block stretch of music clubs in the Crescent City, this group with an unlikely appearance had the joint jumping at a venue called “d.b.a.” In this case, “unlikely” means relatively young, mostly white, a female lead cornetist/trumpeter, and not a single native New Orleanian. For 15 years now, Tuba Skinny has plied its trad-jazz trade, but its obeisance to the old style still seems fresh and wonderful.

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And then, lo and behold, through the door of another club right across the street wafted the sounds of yet more traditional jazz. Peaking through the window, one saw an entirely female band, name unknown. At both clubs, patrons were all but spilling out the doors. Both audiences were loving this stuff, these sounds hot and pure.

At the Hogan Jazz Archives 5 miles upriver at Tulane University, one can hear a 1950s interview in which a New Orleans debutante says rock and roll is a passing phase but that traditional jazz surely will have lasting appeal. Sixty-five years later, Tuba Skinny is trying to prove that she was prescient.

ORIGINAL: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/3021127/heres-the-straight-skinny-on-traditional-jazz/

 

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