Tuba Skinny

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Tuba Skinny
Tuba Skinny 2009.jpg
In performance in New Orleans, 2009
Background information
OriginNew Orleans, United States
GenresSwing, blues, ragtime, jazz
Years active2009 (2009) – present
MembersShaye Cohn
Craig Flory
Barnabus Jones
Todd Burdick
Gregory Sherman
Max Ben-Kahn
Jason Lawrence
Robin Rapuzzi
Erika Lewis

Tuba Skinny is a traditional jazz band based in New Orleans, Louisiana which was formed in 2009. Tuba Skinny's instrumentation includes cornet, clarinet, saxophone, trombone, tuba, tenor banjo, guitar, washboard, and vocals. The group finds inspiration in the early jazz and blues music of the 1920s and 1930s. The band has performed on streets and stages around the world, including music festivals in Mexico, Sweden, Australia, Italy, France, Switzerland and Spain.[1]

Offbeat Magazine awarded their album Owl Call Blues recognition as the best traditional jazz album of the year in 2014.[2] This award is given only to Louisiana musicians, and was first established in 1994.[3]

The band's name originated when Todd Burdick, the sousaphone player was walking down the street one day and someone said, "Hey! There goes that skinny tuba boy!". That was when members decided to run with the incident and named the band, "Tuba Skinny". There is a common misconception that band was named as a tribute to the tuba player Anthony Lacen who was better known as Tuba Fats. He was a founding member of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, one of New Orleans' most prominent brass rhythm bands. He died in 2004.[4]


  • Some Kind-a-Shake (2019)
  • Nigel's Dream (2018)
  • Tupelo Pine (2017)
  • Blue Chime Stomp (2016)
  • Owl Call Blues (2014)
  • Pyramid Strut (2014)
  • Rag Band (2012)
  • Garbage Man (2011)
  • Six Feet Down (2010)
  • Tuba Skinny (2009)

Tuba Skinny also appears on:

Band Members[edit]

Although the band's members have varied somewhat since their début in 2009, the ensemble as of 2018 included the following musicians.

Some time members include:

  • John Doyle – Clarinet
  • Ewan Bleach – Clarinet


Their material, while it includes some original material they have composed, is drawn from the lesser known compositions of the early jazz era. Their repertoire has been documented by their honorary archivist to include over 450 songs.[5] He has praised their selection of deserving tunes, and selected the following as being especially noteworthy: New Orleans Bump, You Can Have My Husband, Jackson Stomp, Deep Henderson, Banjoreno, Treasures Untold, Russian Rag, Oriental Strut, Minor Drag, Michigander Blues, In Harlem's Araby, Me and My Chauffeur, A Jazz Battle, Droppin' Shucks, Fourth Street Mess Around, and Carpet Alley Breakdown.[6]

The singers and composers whose material they favor include Jelly Roll Morton, Lucille Bogan, Victoria Spivey, Memphis Minnie, Jabbo Smith, Georgia White, Skip James, Merline Johnson, Ma Rainey, Hattie Hart, Blind Blake and Clara Smith. The bands whose material Tuba Skinny has interpreted in their own manner are The Memphis Jug Band, The Dixieland Jug Blowers and The Mississippi Mud Steppers.[5]

Musical Style[edit]

Their music has been praised by music critics for its originality and technical competence. One review of their 2014 performance at the Melbourne Music Festival captured the quality of their music well.

Musically, Tuba Skinny mines a rich seam of traditional jazz and blues from the '20s and '30s. And, while it's evident the band treasures the sense of history evoked by these vintage tunes, the players' natural exuberance makes the music feel irresistibly alive. Erika Lewis' vocals have a wonderfully earthy quality, her phrases often pulling behind the beat with a languid, world-weary drawl. On the instrumental numbers, Cohn's cornet outlined the melody and also engaged in spirited three-way conversations with Barnabus Jones' trombone and Jon Doyle's agile clarinet. Washboard player Robin Rapuzzi frolicked on the sidelines, his rhythmic explorations as captivating to watch as they were to listen to – even when the band was temporarily upstaged by a troupe of swing dancers, who launched into an athletic routine peppered with break-out solos and acrobatic air steps, offering a physical manifestation of the joy Tuba Skinny seem to bring with them wherever they go.[7]


  1. ^ Coffee, Pops. "Tuba Skinny, the World's Best Traditional Jazz Band". Playing Traditional Jazz. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  2. ^ "2014 Best of the Beat Award Winners" (1/28/2015). Offbeat Magazine. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  3. ^ "Offbeat Magazine's Best of the Beat Awards". Offbeat Magazine. 29 December 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  4. ^ "Anthony Lacen, 53; 'Tuba Fats' Was A New Orleans Fixture". Los Angeles Times. 17 January 2004. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  5. ^ a b Coffee, Pops. "Repertoire of Tuba Skinny". Playing Traditional Jazz. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  6. ^ Coffee, Pops. "What's the Secret of Today's Greatest Traditional Jazz Band?". Playing Traditional Jazz. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  7. ^ Nichols, Jessica (19 October 2014). "Melbourne Festival Review: Tuba Skinny". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 May 2015.

External links[edit]