There’s a heap of ambition on display in this documentary by T.G. Herrington and Danny Clinch, and 84 minutes doesn’t feel like quite enough time to capture everything it’s trying to do. On the most basic level, it’s chronicling a tour of Cuba by the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans, with wonderful accompanying live performance footage. It’s also a monument to Preservation Hall’s founder, the late Allan Jaffe, as the film is primarily narrated by Jaffe’s son Ben, a tuba and bass player in the current band. And it’s a tale of the unifying power of music, as people who share few words in a common language bond over the common African roots of New Orleans jazz and Afro-Cuban traditions. The latter in particular provides some surprisingly emotional moments—although the directors are far more thorough about providing historical context for Cuban music than for American jazz—and the filmmakers edit several montages to the unique musical rhythms of the cities under discussion. It all just starts to feel like a whirlwind highlight reel, delivering surface satisfactions while missing the opportunity to dig deeper into the way an art form can connect disparate cultures.
Director: T.G. Herrington and Danny Clinch
Writer: T.G. Herrington
Producer: Nicelle Herrington, Han Soto, Ben Jaffe, Mike Martinovich, Adam Block and Kristin Patrick
Cast: Preservation Hall Jazz Band