Tuba Skinny brought a unique offering of traditional New Orleans jazz and blues to their delighted Adelaide Cabaret Festival audience, with a style and a tone we haven’t heard anywhere else.
Transported back to the 1920s, the audience crowded around tables, and onto the dance floor, while everyone bathed in the music and its movement. Tuba Skinny’s delightful nonchalance is a defining feature of the band. They held the stage very differently from what we’re used to; we expected theatrics, visuals, performance – on top of great music. Yet these musicians are not quite comfortable in the Festival Centre. Something feels too formal. They seem as if they would be happier at the back of the room while everyone danced and chatted. Some time spent on Youtube explains this, where their many videos of busking on the streets of the Big Easy show where they’re most at home. Their music fills the streets so perfectly, and Erika Lewis’ voice is effortlessly powerful enough to stand above the instruments and passers-by. Being miked on the stage of the Banquet Room changed these dynamics, and the natural power of her voice was muted. However their sounds were still wonderfully balanced, and while they may look downplayed, their musicianship is excellent.
They have cultivated their style visually. The guys wore old caps, and one was even sporting the American cousin of a Bluey. They looked like they got up late that morning, threw on yesterday’s clothes, had a nice relaxing day and then rocked up for the show. This created an intriguing contrast to their very well dressed and put-together audience. For those keen to dance, there were few songs that were comfortably quick enough to swing to – yet that didn’t deter all. As girls and couples took to the dance floor, we saw high heels come off and hair come down as they relaxed into Tuba Skinny’s groove. When Kate Ceberano popped in half way through, she ended up sitting on the edge of the dance floor since all the seats in the house were long gone (and the walls were taken too), which summed up the wonderfully relaxed feeling of the show.
Tuba Skinny are a seamless whole. Every musician holds their place with rich, original sounds. Robin Rapuzzi on the washboard was a highlight for all who are unfamiliar with this great instrument. He mastered it in solos and added fantastic industrial undertones throughout. Todd Burdick held centre stage with his glorious tuba, blending with the wonderful brass of Barnabus Jones on trombone and Shaye Cohn on trumpet, while Kiowa Wells held stage left with Robin. For a room filled with jazz lovers, the brass was a total delight. The blending and singling-out of all these sounds created a smorgasbord for the ears.
2011 Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Venue: Banquet Room
Dates: 17 – 19 June 2011
Times: 10:00pm (17 & 18) & 9:00pm (19)
Tickets: Adult $35.00 Concession $31.00
Duration: 1 hour (no interval)