Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue
Under the Bridge, July 2nd, 2011. Part of Bluesfest London. Review by Rod Fogg)
Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews is a New Orleans native from the Tremé (pronounced “TreMAY”) district near the centre of town and grew up as part of an extended family of musicians. The marching band culture in New Orleans means kids there grow up wanting to play brass instruments rather than guitars, and Troy began playing in brass band parades when only four years old – his nickname comes from the fact that the trombone was larger than he was. Although only in his mid-20s he has already performed and toured with many leading artists including Lenny Kravitz and U2.
Andrew’s main outlet for original work is Orleans Avenue, a seven-piece band that’s the baddest, funkiest and tightest you’ll hear in a long, long time. They are: Trombone Shorty, trombone, trumpet and vocals; Michael Ballard, bass; Pete Murano, guitar; Dan Oestreicher, baritone sax; Joey Peebles, drums; Dwayne Williams, percussion; and Tim McFatter on tenor sax. These guys seem to have several things in common; their connection to New Orleans, their youth, and their ability to play to a very high standard.
“Supafunkrock” is Andrews’ chosen name for their style of music. It’s not easy to sum up, but the majority of their tracks are instrumental, and feature dynamite unison or ‘call and response’ horn riffs played over a weighty bass/drums backbeat and accompanied by funky single note riffs or choppy chords on guitar. That’s an over simplification and the music is way, way better than that might sound. The baritone sax is punchy and deep, the tenor sax fluent and jazzy, and Pete Murano’s guitar solos (several of them lengthy) demonstrate his amazing chops.
All of which makes Andrews even more impressive because I’ve never heard the trombone played the way he does it. He has speed, fluency, musical invention, power and excitement that put the old ’bone on a whole new level. He’s also a fine singer, taking the lead on original tracks and some cover versions such as Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down”, or Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”. His party piece is circular breathing, and he blew a single note continuously for what seemed like minutes on end. It may not have been the most musically inventive part of the gig but for technical prowess it was seriously impressive.
This band don’t just play funk with a rock influence; you can also add a dose of rap, hip-hop and all other post James Brown dance styles to the mix. After hurricane Katrina it may have been tempting to see New Orleans as a city whose glory days are in the past. If it can still produce music of this quality, then the future is looking pretty good too.