15 May 2015


Lou, an elderly American reader of this blog, has corresponded with me from time to time and recently sent this message, which I think ought to be shared.

Hi Ivan,

It certainly sounds as though you enjoy life and the pleasure that the music brings. I have commented on a few members of Tuba Skinny, but I have to mention Barnabus. Of course I listened to the traditional recorded dixieland growing up. But we spent every weekend during my college days at a local jazz place. We listened to the "Dixiecrats", a great band consisting of piano, tenor sax, trumpet, clarinet, string bass and drums. The tenor and sax played with Cab Calloway and the clarinet played with Louis Armstrong in the early days in NOLA. So I was pretty used to a band without a trombone, and never gave the instrument much thought. As a matter of fact, we thought of our taste in dixieland as rather elite....no tuba, no banjo, strictly "Chicago Style".

Tuba Skinny has totally changed my thinking on the subject, which is a lengthy lead-in to Barnabus.

I suspect that he, Shaye and Todd go back to their earliest days together and that they have not only a strong personal relationship, but are attuned to one another musically. Barnabus is such a strong player. He's always where he should be, whether it's lead or support. I still find it hard to believe that he just picked up a horn and taught himself. He certainly plays like he has a deep musical background. The same thing seems true of Todd. He's so gentle that at times he sounds like a string bass, and he's so important as part of TS's rhythm section.

Have I pontificated enough?


I am so pleased Lou pays this tribute to Barnabus and Todd.
Todd Burdick

Tuba Skinny fans (including myself) are so seduced by the amazing talents of the ladies - Shaye and Erika - that we don't give sufficient credit to the other players - especially Todd, who goes unnoticed by most people while never putting a foot wrong in the 'engine room' of the band.
Shaye and Barnabus

Sometimes, when listening to a tune played by Tuba Skinny, I deliberately focus my attention on ONE instrument. It is a great way to appreciate the magic of this band. I am invariably amazed at how that one instrument contributes to the overall structure. In the case of Barnabus, Lou is so right about his strengths, whether leading on the melody or supporting other players. And Todd has an uncanny ability to find the perfect bass line, no matter how complicated the piece. Maybe the fact that both these men are also banjo players - and therefore understand chord sequences - helps a little. What great musicians they both are!
Canadian correspondent Wally, who not long ago attended a Tuba Skinny performance, added this:

Hi Ivan,

Thank you for sharing this.

I would like to add a thought to something your correspondent mentioned: "but are attuned to one another musically". This is something that I can echo wholeheartedly, especially after my trip to Maine. In fact, it is more than just this three, it is the entire ensemble. Easy enough to focus upon the band all at once or on each individual, but the secret is to look for the interactions as well, something that does not always seem apparent when viewing a video, unless one knows exactly what to look for.
A note on Todd: In a couple of the songs he took on the most amazing solos, something unexpected from a Tuba on the back line. How often do we see the front line getting the nods while the rhythm section keeps on steadfastly pounding out the rhythm?