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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: