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5 December 2019


Three books about traditional jazz:

The first is called Playing Traditional Jazz, and it contains 42 chapters mainly for musicians at whatever level of accomplishment who want to play the music as well as possible.

The second is called Enjoying Traditional Jazz and is for anyone who enjoys this kind of music. It covers over 80 topics.
The third is called 'Tuba Skinny and Shaye Cohn'. At more than 40,000 words, it covers fifty-seven topics and - at the end - provides a long list of the tunes Tuba Skinny play. It has been fully updated and is available in its 2024 edition.

All three books are available at a modest price on the Amazon website - as paperbacks or downloadable e-books.

4 December 2019


Haruka Kikuchi, energetically driving a band along or playing gently and lyrically, is currently one of the world’s best traditional jazz trombonists. She grew up in Japan and graduated in Music Science at Tokyo University of Fine Arts in 2010. Inspired by Kid Ory, she fell in love with traditional jazz.

In 2014, Haruka made the bold move of emigrating to New Orleans. She was soon in demand and playing with such bands as Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers and The Swamp Donkeys. Today, through her playing with The Shotgun Jazz Band and The Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band, she has become an international favourite. Her diary – up to the moment of the Coronavirus lock-down, was full.

Haruka married fellow Japanese musician the superb pianist Yoshitaka Tsuji; and they have a cute little son, Shouta, who has appeared with Haruka in videos – even on last year’s European tour.

Haruka wanted to link Japan with New Orleans in a project to inspire the next generation. So, whenever Japanese players visited New Orleans, she invited them into a recording studio to play music with her new friends. Over four years, she arranged 10 such sessions. Thirty-eight different musicians took part. They included Naho Ishimura, Shingo Kano, Makiko Tamura and Tomomitsu Maruyama from Japan and locals such as Molly Reeves, Gerald French, Twerk Thomson and David Boeddinghaus.

This year, Haruka has put together a CD anthology drawn from those sessions. It is called ‘Japan: New Orleans Collection Series’. 

There are eleven tunes on the CD. I don’t know which studio Haruka uses but I can tell you the recording and sound quality are first-class. You can enjoy the full tone of every instrument with great clarity.

Here are some of the highlights. On ‘Struttin’ With Some Barbecue’ we have witty, fluent double-chorus solos from Naho Ishimura, and Haruka herself, with Gerald French providing a vocal. ‘By and By’, which features fine playing from Haruka’s husband, Yoshitaka, is played by a quintet including both piano and organ. It begins with a slow church-style organ solo before a stomping treatment of the song. Haruka is at her lyrical best in ‘When It’s Sleepy Time Down South’, which she performs with only a piano and string bass in support.

You may agree with me that the loveliest track is ‘Give It Up’, which shows you need only get four great players together and magic results. Makiko Tamura is on clarinet, Molly Reeves on guitar and Joshua Gouzy on bass. Need I say more?

The sextet playing ‘Buddy Bolden’s Blues’ includes three trombones and there is no vocal. In both these respects the atmospheric interpretation, with liberal use of trombone mutes, is refreshing.

You would hardly expect ‘The Mooche’ to work well when played by a mere quartet of guitar, bass, trombone and piano. But, with a dramatic arrangement and the trombone carrying most of the melody, Hideki Kon, Nobu Ozaki and Haruka, joined by Larry Scala, pull it off. You would think the tune had been written for them.

Kevin Louis is on trumpet in an all-star quintet playing the ‘Gettysburg March’, which – delightfully and traditionally – the group runs through first in 6/8 time before breaking into a swinging 4/4. Junji Kimura shows his skills on percussion.

‘Mama Inez’ is the only number to feature a saxophone. Its player is Yasuki Sogabe; and very fine he is too, with piano, bass and drums providing the excellent rhythmic support this song requires.

It was brave for a quartet to undertake ‘High Society’. But with Kensuke Shintani on clarinet, Haruka knew it would sparkle. David Boeddinghaus on piano and Tom Saunders on tuba give just the right support.

‘Lonesome Road’ features the banjo-player Tomomitsu Maruyama, whose work we have admired in YouTube videos from Tokyo. They take it at a gentle tempo in the key of F, with Tomomitsu also offering the vocal.

The final number - ‘Indian Red’ - features a seven-piece group, successfully plunging four Japanese musicians into a stereotypical piece of Louisiana culture. Quite an achievement! My guess is that Haruka is specially proud of that.

I strongly recommend this unique anthology. It is available from The Louisiana Music Factory.

2 December 2019


What a wonderful and complex composition Craig Flory’s ‘Minor Fret’ is. Through-composed, it is possibly the most striking and challenging piece Tuba Skinny ever set itself to learn by heart. 
Beginning (in recent performances) with a single beat played on the washboard, the rest of the first bar has the band holding an E flat minor chord, followed by four (in earlier performances two) more bars of Introduction, establishing the key by firmly laying down that chord on every beat.

This is followed by a 12-bar blues theme in E flat minor, led by Craig on clarinet, with Shaye playing a pretty counter-melody in bars 2 and 4. Then Shaye herself leads the way through the 12-bar blues theme, this time with Barnabus playing the counter-melody.

Now something extraordinary happens: the rug is pulled from under us! There is a startling switch up by just one semi-tone to the key of E minor! The acid E minor chord is hammered out over eight bars, during which Craig plays that counter-melody again – but in the new key. The eight bars end with a heavily-struck B flat 7th chord, which leads us cleverly back into the principal key of E flat minor.

We now have the 12-bar blues in E flat minor again, but usually with the trombone (Barnabus) taking the lead in the final eight of those bars.

Now those final eight themselves become the pattern for a new theme: we have this little theme, played three (in some performances four) times and usually led respectively by the cornet, the clarinet, the tuba and (against offbeats) the guitar. This eight-bar theme uses the chord structure of the final eight bars of the 12-bar blues in E flat minor.

The last of these mini-solos ends on a crashing B 7th chord, taking us for a second time into that wailing Interlude of eight bars in E minor, again including the counter-melody and ending on a sustained B flat 7th chord, which of course takes us neatly back into the key of E flat minor for another run-through of the twelve-bar blues theme and a lingering drop on the final E flat minor chord. Wow!

You can hear Tuba Skinny play this piece in its mature form, after some months of gestation and tweaking, in this video filmed by my good friend James Sterling:


My book 'Tuba Skinny and Shaye Cohn' (2023 edition) is now available from Amazon:


I leave you some recommendations for videos of traditional jazz bands active in recent years. If you have not seen these videos before, I hope you will enjoy them. If you have seen them, I am sure you will enjoy watching them again!

First, for a relaxed, moving, unpretentious but beautifully-played performance, showing just how perfect a musical form traditional jazz can be, try Whenever You're Lonesome, Just Telephone Me played by members of The Shotgun Jazz Band. The video runs for about five minutes:

For an example of a great jazz band playing one of the very complex tunes from our repertoire - Deep Henderson - watch Tuba Skinny in this next video. It runs for a little over three minutes. Notice how all members of the band, working from memory rather than printed arrangements, play wonderfully as an ensemble through all three sections of this challenging piece, not to mention taking in their stride a change of key and linking passages:

Now, for some passionate 'no frills' traditional jazz, coupled with brilliant musicianship and generating great excitement, I would like to offer you a performance of Royal Garden Blues that I myself had the privilege of filming. This one runs for under five minutes:

Next, I offer you a performance of a good old jazz standard - Savoy Blues - played by The Shake 'Em Up Jazz Band. This video runs for a little under five minutes. I recommend it because it shows what happens when six outstanding musicians come together and - with great respect for each other - play wonderfully as a team, just as our bands should. This performance too is unpretentious and yet you will hardly find a better rendition of this piece anywhere:

Finally, if you have time to sit back for a full half hour and watch six outstanding musicians play a varied programme ranging from storming stuff such as Climax Rag to the tender Love Songs of the Nile, may I urge you to watch this video? You will also hear such tunes as Oriental Man, Yearning, Mobile Stomp and I Can't Escape From You. As one observer said, 'It's the kind of music that makes you cry with joy!' Click on it here:

In my opinion, this is the best 'half-hour live concert' video to have appeared in several years.