A review by Jeanette Catsoulis for The New York Times.
High on music and hot with the thrill of discovery, “A Tuba to Cuba” swarms with shiny happy people.
Directed by T.G. Herrington and Danny Clinch, this joyous, wide-ranging account of a New Orleans jazz band’s 2015 visit to Cuba is crammed with fascinating facts and toe-tickling tunes. Its myriad voices, humble despite their extreme musical gifts, guide a journey to forge new connections and untangle the music’s Afro-Caribbean roots.
Everyone has a story to tell, a tradition to illuminate or a musical style to lay claim to, and the filmmakers weave these diverse threads into a colorful blanket of sights, sounds and spirituality. A mini urban opera emerges from the percussive rhythms of street life, and complex beats spring from the simple slap of a hand on a wooden seat. The movie exudes such an abundance of pleasure, talent and fellowship that we barely notice the poverty that backgrounds many of its scenes. Instead, it seems more logical to ponder why a neighborhood with its own conga organization isn’t on top of everyone’s house-hunting list.
Intimate and easy, Ben Jaffe’s narration grounds the film’s ambitions in his parents’ 1961 founding of the historic New Orleans jazz venue Preservation Hall, whose name his band bears. Serene beneath a riot of ginger ringlets, Jaffe is an evangelist for the music’s ability to bridge colors and cultures. (His parents fostered the hall’s success at a time when it was still illegal for blacks and whites to socialize together.) Politics are never mentioned, but, in these depressingly divisive times, any movie this devoted to inclusiveness is well worth seeking out.