Review: 'A Tuba to Cuba' hits right notes

Musical documentary explores the connections between New Orleans and Cuba

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Ben Jaffe, right, in "A Tuba to Cuba."

The universality of music, the way it touches and connects people, is explored in "A Tuba to Cuba," a documentary with a song in its heart and a pep in its step. 

We learn the history of New Orleans' Preservation Hall Jazz Band — told by Ben Jaffe, son of founder Allan Jaffe — and its role as a Big Easy institution. And we're shown the way music runs through the lifeblood of New Orleans; in one scene, a kid on the street rips a Pepsi can in two and fashions his own tap dancing shoes, doing a quick routine and then walking off as if it was an everyday occurrence.

We then follow the Preservation Hall Jazz Band as it makes a two-week trip to Cuba, its members sort of musical ambassadors for America, connecting the dots between New Orleans culture and Cuban culture, and the roots of both to Europe and Africa and beyond.

Over the course of the film, Jaffe is taping up his tuba to bear his band's name, a grand tradition the film treats with reverence. The whole movie is that way, respecting the music and its players and holding them in such high esteem that they're almost portrayed as dignitaries rather than musicians. 

The trip to Cuba is eye-opening as the Preservation Hall players connect deeply to the culture and the nation's history, seeing themselves in their Cuban counterparts and vice versa. It's a match made in musical heaven. Co-directors T.G. Herrington and Danny Clinch are fluent in the language of jazz and understand the music and its connection to past and future generations. 

"Musical conversation cancels out complication," one musician says in the film, and "A Tuba to Cuba" is a testament to that statement.

'A Tuba to Cuba'


Not rated: nothing objectionable

Running time: 82 minutes