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Review: Preservation Hall Jazz Band explores its roots in documentary ‘A Tuba to Cuba’

A jam session in a scene from “A Tuba to Cuba.” Credit: Danny Clinch/ Blue Fox Entertainment
Jazz musicians jam in the documentary “A Tuba to Cuba.”
(Danny Clinch / Blue Fox Entertainment)

The rousing documentary “A Tuba to Cuba” (come on, is that not the best title?) takes us on an inspiring two-week trip with New Orleans’ celebrated Preservation Hall Jazz Band to Cuba for a culture-bridging whirlwind of music, dance and bonhomie. Just sit back and enjoy.

Preservation Hall creative director and tuba-playing band member (also bass and banjo) Ben Jaffe, whose parents founded the Hall in 1961, is our charismatic guide as he and his fellow jazzmen — including saxophonist Clint Maedgen, trombonist Ronell Johnson, drummer Walter Harris, pianist Rickie Monie, trumpet player Marc Anthony Braud and sax-and-clarinet vet Charlie Gabriel — go on a heart-and-soul-quenching 2015 journey to explore the roots of New Orleans jazz that are “firmly planted” in Cuba.

Directors T.G. Herrington (he also wrote) and Danny Clinch’s cameras follow the PHJB across the island — from Havana to Santiago de Cuba (“Another country in the same country!”) to Cienfuegos — as its members visit, learn about, befriend and play music with a wide and exuberant array of locals.

Jaunty, at times poetic chats and drop-ins with many Big Easy and Cuban jazz artists, discussion of their music’s African lineage (the Atlantic slave trade factored in), stirring examples of native instrumentation, and pulsating performances combine with colorful, travelogue-type shots (love those old Cuban theaters) and vivid archival footage to create a vibrant and joyous portrait.

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‘A Tuba to Cuba’

In English and Spanish with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes

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Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Glendale

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