Album Review: Maria Muldaur with Tuba Skinny, ‘Let’s Get Happy Together’
Any album by Maria Muldaur is a cause for joy and celebration, and Let’s Get Happy Together, her collaboration with New Orleans band Tuba Skinny – Shaye Cohn (cornet), Todd Burdick (tuba), Barnabus Jones (trombone), Jason Lawrence (banjo), Craig Flory (clarinet), Greg Sherman (guitar), Max Bien-Kahn (guitar), and Robin Rapuzzi (washboard) – lives up to its title. Every song on the album dances exuberantly, strutting with the jaunty rhythms of second line swingers, with tuba, clarinet, trombone, and cornet sliding under and around one another and riding on a bed of guitar strums and banjo rolls. Muldaur sat in with the band when she was in New Orleans, but she and the band played a rousing official showcase at the 2020 Folk Alliance, and this album grew out of that rollicking performance of New Orleans blues and jazz standards from the 1920s and 1930s.
The album kicks off in high spirits with Cohn’s toodling cornet chasing Flory’s snaking clarinet leading into Muldaur’s buoyant vocals, which dazzle with a luminous joy as the singer affirms that of all the things in life that make her happy, “I Like You Best of All”; every instrument takes a turn on the instrumental bridge, allowing the band to bask in its glory. The swaying, toe-tapping “Let’s Get Happy Together,” written and originally recorded by Lil Hardin Armstrong, jubilantly showcases Tuba Skinny’s musical genius and Muldaur’s gift for conveying the emotions of a song’s lyrics in her vocals. The slow-burning “Delta Bound” contains similar sonic features to Muldaur’s classic version of “Can’t You Feel My Leg,” while the hopping juke joint number “Swing You Sinners” cannily illustrates that the gospel and jazz are two sides of the same coin and that there’s as much redemption in a Saturday night jazz ramble as there is in a Sunday morning gospel shout. Muldaur captures the tongue-in-cheek spirit of Irving Berlin’s “He Ain’t Got Rhythm,” as Tuba Skinny’s swinging rhythms deliver a sly parody of the song’s theme. The album closes with two sultry blues tunes, “Big City Blues” and “Road of Stone.”
Let’s Get Happy Together is a match made in jazz heaven, and we can only hope that Muldaur and Tubby Skinny will join forces again for another sashay and romp down Bourbon Street.
Let’s Get Happy Together is available HERE.