24 March 2013

Post 24: 'ICE MAN'

One of the 2013 videos of Tuba Skinny, brought to us by the generous digitalalexa, is a performance of Ice Man.

The band is playing for fun, outdoors, late on a warm summer evening. It is almost completely dark.

You can watch the performance if you:

I had never heard of Ice Man (but I have now discovered there were several tunes of this title: one was written and recorded by Memphis Minnie in 1936). The one played by Tuba Skinny, however, is believed to be an old Cajun music theme, composer unknown.

It is one of the most delightful and infectious music performances you will come across.

Six members of the band are present and they are totally relaxed, making music just to please themselves and for the sheer joy of it.

Ice Man is essentially a simple eight-bar theme, using just the tonic and dominant chords. It's the kind of tune that could have been composed on the back of an envelope in about 15 minutes. Maybe it was!

My guess is that this was Tuba Skinny's first-ever performance of the tune. The context and treatment suggest that it was played at the request of (and led by) the guitarist, who was the only one who knew the words of the spoken 'verses'. The fact that they play it in the key of G (usually considered awkward for Bb brass instruments) supports the theory that the key was chosen to please the guitarist.

Tuba Skinny show us what can be achieved even with such simple material.

Notice the perfect line laid down by Todd Burdick's tuba. Enjoy Robin's use of the full range of his percussion, including the makeshift cymbal. And note how the two of them work smartly together at each 'cut-off' point. Enjoy the close-harmony singing of the two ladies (Shaye and Erika). Admire Barnabus's usual creative work on the trombone. And note as always Shaye's magical work on the cornet - a perfect bluesy 8 bars at 2 mins 50 secs, and her astonishing colouring behind the brief trombone solo at 1 min 49 secs.

Incidentally, if you are a beginner trying to learn to play traditional jazz, this would make a very good tune for you to try first. Here you go: