Jazz doc A Tuba to Cuba has a structure that’s similar to the musical genre’s free-flowing essence – the film is informed and pleasant to take in, but it’s also suspiciously unkempt.
Documentarians T.G. Herrington and Danny Clinch stick closely to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, an ensemble based out of New Orleans with a deep connection to the city’s musical heritage. The musicians proudly reveal the history of the band, which was founded by the parents of Preservation’s current creative director/tuba player Ben Jaffe. After a tour and some lovely observational cinematography of the city, the musicians travel to Cuba and rediscover the jazz roots that thrive throughout the Cuban music scene.
While some films would use this international connection of the arts to mend fences between two opposing sides, A Tuba to Cuba is different – there’s no hostility featured here. Instead, this affable and rich film is about how strangers, with a common interest, can use different levels of music to communicate with each other and create a natural chemistry out of the genre’s spontaneity.
The film’s flow is often in trouble though, with the directors deciding to interrupt the rhythm of the doc with musical vignettes, montages, and a very random cameo by members of Arcade Fire. But when the music takes the spotlight, it’s hard not to groove along with A Tuba to Cuba.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie