Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue were one of Jazzfest‘s most anticipated performances. Led by 25 year old wunderkind Troy “Trombone Shorty”Andrews on trombone and trumpet, the band’s first widely released album Backatown (2010) is an innovative mix of funk, rock, jazz and r&b that garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz album earlier this year. Andrews has been playing for close to 20 years already and is as close to a rock star as you can get for a man playing brass these days, having toured and shared stages with the likes of Lenny Kravitz, U2, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Matthews and the list goes on. Andrews has also co-starred as himself in the critically acclaimed HBO series Treme, about post-Katrina New Orleans and focusing on a group of musicians and how they deal with their lives following the hurricane. The show is named after and set in Treme, the neighborhood where Andrews grew up, and has just begun season two on HBO.
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Ave’s Victoria debut Saturday would be relatively low key compared to closing the Montreal Jazz Festival last year with the Mardi Gras Spectacular featuring Allen Toussaint and the Rebirth Brass Band, along with many thousands of music fans. Tell that to those in the audience at Centennial Square Saturday night though. It makes no difference whatsoever to this band what the size of the stage or audience is. They come to bring the funk, night in night out.
They performed many songs from the stellar debut Backatown including Right to Complain, Something Beautiful, Backatown, and the Allen Toussaint cover On Your Way Down. It was evident that this was Shorty’s band yet he was always shouting out band members for their stellar solos and work as his rhythm and horns sections. They were also clearly enjoying themselves just as much as TS for the entirety of their set.
In what was no doubt the highlight of the performance, TS dedicated the Louis Armstrong cover The Sunny Side of the Street to Armstrong himself, the godfather of New Orleans jazz. I don’t know how long Armstrong could hold a note on the trumpet back in his day, but Trombone Shorty certainly gave him a run for his money, holding the note for what seemed like an eternity. Several minutes anyway. His technique of taking air in back through his nose was phenomenal, something that needed to be witnessed at the front of the stage.
Halfway into the band’s set TS’s James Brown impression, certainly unexpected, and especially his footwork garnered cheers and much respect from the crowd, considering he had just previously covered the sweet soul of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On.
Orleans Avenue were certainly no musical slouches, providing the back bone to their bandleader’s antics on the trombone, trumpet and even tambourine. At the end of the band’s set, every member of the band played a game of musical chairs, taking on a different instrument, including Trombone Shorty on drums. They showed the musical talent and showmanship of a veteran band
At the end of their set, Trombone Shorty conveyed his thanks to the energetic Victoria crowd of 500+. He promised “I’ll be back”. We’ll hold you to that Trombone Shorty, no doubt about it…
by: Nathan Ambrose