Kelli Rae Tubbs could plink out a tune on a piano when the top of her head wasn’t even level with the keyboard. By 8th grade she had moved to playing drums (her brother’s abandoned set) and was attending jazz camp for several years in-a-row at Shell Lake, Wisconsin.
Forest Lake High School sent her out into the world and Kelli Rae then studied music performance in college; pretty clear in her mind that she did not want to be a music teacher, no, she wanted to entertain. Which she’s been doing ever since...five years with the country band Colt .45 and more recently with the larger swing and jazz band Swing and a Miss. “It was time to bring swing back,” she said. Tubbs was well-prepared for putting together this swing band of accomplished musicians. She has been amassing a swing/jazz era music collection for a long time.
She visits estate sales where she might be lucky enough to unearth the wisdom of a departed musician scribbled on a page of sheet music. Or, maybe a new way of looking at arrangements and interpreting the tune. She visits music lending libraries. She buys music at antique stores. “I can imagine all the people who have danced to a special song...the places the musicians have played the song... I can feel that somebody cared,” she says of her inspiration from printed musical ephemra. For you non-musicians an apt comparison might be cracking open a vintage cookbook, seeing the handwriting in the recipe margins and those recollections of when you savored a signature dish or helped in the kitchen. Tubbs has a business card that states simply-- drummer/band leader. Her “other” card would say energy management analyst, which is her day job working for Trane. The job blends well with her band commitments, it’s very flexible hours. Mostly she does comparative analysis of clients’ before-and-after energy expenses. Tubbs kind of chuckles whenever people ask what kind of a degree did you have to get for that?
Music performance in a weird way helped refine her considerable math skills, she explains. There’s a lot of similarities between music and mathematics. Tubbs is honored to be able to play music all over the United States, from Mardi Gras parades to private gigs, sharing billing with major and not so major players. The musician community is full of great people. “It’s an adventure all the time,” she adds.
Swing and a Miss has evolved together extremely well and Tubbs is excited to see lots of people at an upcoming local event, at Chisago City Community Center, April 28. Swing concerts could become a monthly event, depending how this goes. To hear the band check the website www.Swing-and-a-Miss.com Tubbs chose the community center because it has a big wood dance floor. There’ll be at least two dance instructors on hand during the April 28 show, to teach you fox trot and East Coast swing steps. It could be a good way to get some basic moves down for that summer wedding you’ve been dreading. One final word There is something classic and poignant about swing and jazz as America’s musical backdrop during some of the nation’s troubling time periods.
Tubbs has a favorite memory of watching the 1943 Stage Door Canteen, a movie with a massive cast of popular performers doing a show, within the movie. There’s a scene featuring the song in the movie “Why Don’t You Do Right?” She says, Benny Goodman, big band legend, is cradling his clarinet in his arm and moving his body to the vocal part. “The scene is just so cool,” Tubbs says. The young vocalist was Peggy Lee. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to be a part of bringing that era back?