Saturday, November 13, 2010

Trombone Shorty's Backatown Keeps Groove Going

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue at 2009 Duke Ellington (now DC) Jazz Festival
Since emerging nationally as a member of Lenny Kravitz’s Band, and his appearance on a nationally televised Hurricane Katrina, Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews has emerged as a favorite band on touring and festival circuits with his blend of funk, Brass Band riffs and some hip-hop & soul seasonings. He is a member of a musical family as his older brother James was a founder of the New Birth Brass band and recorded a brassy al;bum that was produced by Allen Toussaint. Another brother, trumpeter James helped mentor him and Troy’s grandfather was the late Jessie Hill who had a major hit with the New Orleans R&B classic “Ooh Poo Pah Doo.” 

Busy beyond his years, Troy has recorded a CD with his brother, and a previous CD with his band Orleans Avenue along with plenty of studio work. Now he has a new release, “Backatown” (Verve Forecast), that seems destined to increase his fan base even more. Also there are recordings available of his New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival sets (from 2004 and 2006-2008) that can be found at

The title of this album refers to the area of New Orleans that includes Tremé, the historic neighborhood where so many great musicians came from and which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Produced by Galactic’s Ben Ellman, Troy’s band, Orleans Avenue (Mike Ballard on bass, Pete Murano on guitar, Joey Peebles on drums, Dwayne Williams on percussion and Dan Oestreicher on baritone sax) is the core behind him with special guests that include Allen Toussaint, Kravitz, Marc Broussard and Charles Smith (Orleans Avenue’s original drummer playing synth bass). Troy wrote all except one of the 14 numbers on this.

The tune is set with the opening “
Hurricane Katrina,” with its hip hop rhythm mixed with a funked up brass band sound, followed by Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down,” where the legendary pianist plays as Troy delivers the message the folks you see on the way up are the ones you will pass on the way down. After another funked up instrumental, Kravitz joins on guitar and backing vocal on “Something Beautiful,” as he asks “Can You Show Me Something Beautiful,” which is quite catchy. The title track opens with some dark sounding synth bass from Smith before Troy enters with some buzzing trombone with some ripping baritone from Oestreicher as the horns weave around each other. Broussard adds a vocal to “Right to Complain,” wLith a message about all make a complain but no one wants to do anything. The instrumental “Neph,” has an mesmerizing cowbell-ish groove before Troy on trumpet conjures up a strong spanish tinge with stirring interludes of his trumpet soaring over the percussion. “Suburbia,” opens with some metal-ish guitar before Troy adds some trombone and trumpet playing that suggest a call to arms. The groove of “In the 6th,” with the baritone helping set the funk riff, sounds like a homage to the Dirty Dozen and other modern New Orleans Brass Bands that his music is rooted in. “Where Y’At,” is a composition that originated in some onstage jamming with “new ideas coalescing out of improvised sections of existing pieces.” Troy credits Marvin Gaye as inspiration for the ballad “Fallin’.”

Anyone who has seen Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue know how electric the performances can be. A studio recording can only go so far in capturing this aspect of his music, but “Backatown,” is a recording that undoubtedly will increase his growing visibility (his appearances on the HBO series “Tremé,” also contribute to this) and certainly please his many fans.

This review also appeared in the July, 2010
Jazz & Blues Report (issue 327) at page 15 although I have added a few bits like the reference to the availability of his Jazz Fest sets. It should be readily available.

For purposes of FTC regulations, I received a review copy from a publicist for the label.

No comments: