In 2015, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans made a trip to Cuba. Their life-changing journey is documented in the wonderfully entertaining and moving film A Tuba to Cuba.
Taking advantage of 2015's relaxed travel restrictions, the band's bassist/sousaphonist/creative director Ben Jaffe was able to connect his father's dream to the surprising evolution of the PHJB sound.
Ben is the son of Allan Jaffe, who founded Preservation Hall in 1961. The band, its foundation and its educational and outreach programs became synonymous with New Orleans music and culture. A Tuba to Cuba presents some of the history of the Hall with engagingly personal archival footage.
Allan had always wanted to make a pilgrimage to Cuba, to explore the roots of the music that came from the Caribbean to New Orleans. Ben, who took over the band in 1995, was excited to finally make it happen.
Ben realized that finding the Cuban component was the next step in the band's growth. The PHJB focus on heritage and tradition has been expanded in recent years by its younger members and their influences. You can hear it in their 2013 album That's It, and even more so with So It Is, the album recorded after the Cuba trip.
Prepared and ready as he was for this experience, Ben was still deeply affected by the immediate bond between the Cuban and American musicians. He also felt right at home in Havana, which looks and feels a lot like old New Orleans. The band's visit to Santiago added a spiritual dimension to the musical connections.
Filmed in vivid color and edited with style and humor, A Tuba to Cuba sings, dances and parades in celebration of reuniting musical family. Language barriers make no difference to these artists; they speak to each other from the heart and soul of music.
A Tuba to Cuba was named an Audience Favorite at the 29th Annual New Orleans Film Festival last month. See it tonight at 7pm at the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle. It's part of their Earshot Jazz Festival Film Series.
Robin Lloyd hosts Mid Day Jazz and Jazz Caliente on KNKX-FM. She is a member of the Jazz Education Network, and currently serves on the board of the Jazz Journalists Association.