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17 August 2017


I recently came across an interesting video that had been put up on YouTube at the end of 2013. The generous video-maker was a person codenamed twobarbreak and the video was of Loose Marbles playing that popular song from 1920 - San.

By the way, my friend Bob Andersen in San Diego has emailed me to say that twobarbreak is in fact Peter Loggins, the well-known jazz trombone player, dance teacher and jazz researcher.
You can watch his video BY CLICKING HERE.

It appeals to me because it provides a glimpse at what was going on behind the scenes in those days when Loose Marbles was still evolving and Tuba Skinny was in its early stage of development.

There is no audienceThe band seems to be rehearsing in an otherwise deserted New Orleans bar. Chord books lie around on the floor; and Shaye is directing proceedings: for example, she sets up a washboard Chorus by the hugely energetic Robin. This is accompanied by stop chords - a device that was to occur very often in later Tuba Skinny performances. 

San has a 24-bar Verse in a minor key but Loose Marbles choose not to play this at all. Instead, they simply romp through the Chorus seven times in the key of F in a pretty exciting manner. The distinctive clarinet sound of Michael Magro is much in evidence. There is the usual Loose Marbles emphasis on ensemble playing, and they ensure that the tune is not always led by the cornet. Note how Barnabus on trombone leads in the second and fifth Choruses. 

Already in 2013, Shaye's wonderful gift for intuitive improvisation and harmonisation during ensembles was much in evidence. The actual notes she plays in the fourth Chorus (that runs from 1 minute 45 seconds to 2 minutes 20 seconds) repay close attention. They are so much more inspired and original than what we hear from so many players. It is amazing to think she had taken up cornet-playing only three or four years earlier.

The musicians are all familiar faces, though a couple of them seem to have since departed from the New Orleans scene.

In more recent times, Tuba Skinny have been playing San frequently. You can easily find videos of them doing so on YouTube. Watch an example filmed by my friend James Sterling BY CLICKING HERE.

But Tuba Skinny are now including the Verse - usually playing it at the start and again later. They are also pitching the tune three semi-tones higher, having switched to the key of Ab, in which it works very well. However, I don't think these later performances are necessarily more exciting than that original Loose Marbles rehearsal!