I had the fortune, many years back, of discovering Tuba Skinny’s music through a google and facebook search of local New Orleans bands. Playing a range of jazz from the early decades of the 20th Century, Tuba Skinny swings in the hearts, minds and feels of anyone who has ever been late on paying bills, been heartbroken or is slap happy for no good reason – back when such conditions were “quirks” and not medically diagnosable “problems”. They are my go-to for when I need podcast theme music and I love them so.
Their ninth available album, Nigel’s Dream, now for download on their Bandcamp page, continues their street side fair of jazz performance, albeit with two new exceptions; little to no Erika Lewis and it all sounds right off the record needle.
Erika Lewis has been the main vocal artist for the band since their debut self-titled album and, while just one member of this diverse and talented group, was a main selling point for me. Her voice evokes for me heartache and boisterous joy all in the same pitch and perhaps coming from one another via an array of experiences. Here, she’s only heard on tracks 5 and 13. Every other song is primarily instrumental, with some lyrics sung by guitarist Greg Sherman. Erika is definitely a missing piece here, with some repetition going on that she could’ve roughed out. By no means does that massively hinder the album, but it does expose some slight moments of “same old”.
My speculative brain wanders and wonders a bit, only to forget when listening to the silent film like scored action of “Jazz Battle”, track 8. I remember when The Prytania presented a screening of Beau Geste with New Leviathan Foxtrot Orchestra performing live on stage. I must’ve been the youngest moviegoer in the room, by far. “Jazz Battle” could easily be featured on a work from master comedian Harold Lloyd or the well-timed mechanics of Buster Keaton. It’s a catchy tune that ramps up as it reminds one of Mickey Mouse steering a Steamboat down river.
I want roman candy when playing Tuba Skinny. I want to feel the humidity and drink some lemonade. I want to sit on my porch and smell the air as the brass notes and washboard go through one ear and out the other. Nigel’s Dream is more of the same nostalgia for a time its audience has never lived in, the very music we come to expect from this great band. And that’s ok. There’s nothing to cry about here.
RATING: 4 / 5