13 January 2016


What joy it is to hear an up-tempo tune played with real energy and drive, and with a total sense of control and great teamwork.

It is an experience that, I'm sorry to say, does not happen often enough here in England. So many of our musicians are very elderly and are really not up to producing that drive any more. (I am one of them.)

If you look at a performance given on 30 March 2016 by Tuba Skinny, filmed by the great Louisiana-based video-maker codenamed RaoulDuke504, you will see what we are failing to achieve.
They are giving a routine street performance of Postage Stomp. It's a simple 32-bar tune with the same chord pattern in the Middle Eight as dozens of other tunes:
 III7 - III7 - VI7 - VI7 - II7 - II7  - V7 - V7
This allows for 'breaks' in Bars 23/24.
Barnabus, the regular trombone player, is absent, but one chorus is taken by the saxophone and there is another in the first half of which cornet and clarinet trade fours. Further variety is provided by a percussion chorus (against stop chords) and a tuba-led chorus - with the clarinet, sax and cornet playing long notes to decorate the Middle Eight. Above all, though, four of the choruses involve dramatic, driving work from the full ensemble. There is brightness and energy from all quarters, with Robin on percussion and Shaye, so busy on cornet, never allowing the tempo or the excitement to drop. The banjo, guitar, tuba and drums keep the tune pounding along in rock-steady fashion.

To Tuba Skinny, this performance was probably nothing special - just another day at the office. But to us old guys who are struggling to play the music, it's an object lesson.

For those of you who are interested in such matters,  Postage Stomp is, I believe, a tune from 1930, featured that year by Maynard Baird and His Orchestra. I think it was composed by Sam Goble and Vic Johnston (members of Maynard Baird's Orchestra). They played it in the key of F and you can hear their bouncing, slickly-arranged version by clicking here. Tuba Skinny play it in Bb.

And, while we are on the subject of playing with energy and drive, have a listen to Tuba Skinny (in the same set as Postage Stomp), playing Dallas Rag. Do so by clicking here.  Sensational!