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NuJazz Festival: Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue

18 November 2011 One Comment

By Anya Wassenberg

Direct from The Big Easy, a red hot blast of New Orleans jazz fired up the Toronto stage last night in the form of Trombone Shorty and his band Orleans Avenue. From the moment he took the stage wielding his trombone in one hand and a trumpet in the other, Trombone Shorty played the capacity Opera House crowd like a rock star and dazzled them with a high octane set.

Trombone Shorty, AKA Troy Andrews, is nothing short of a phenomenon.  He’s the younger brother of trumpeter and bandleader James Andrews and grandson of singer and songwriter Jessie Hill, and was playing in his own band at the tender age of six. He’s in supreme command of his game and has an astonishing facility with the trombone – at one point playing a riff for what felt like five minutes before taking a breath.

You’d call his music nujazz with shades of guitar rock, funk, soul and RnB, and he kept the music coming relentlessly with just a smattering of talk between tunes. Orleans Avenue plays ultra-tight with a busy and rock steady rhythm section of bass, drum kit and percussion layered over with melodic harmonies from both tenor and baritone sax, guitar and the phenom himself, who cycled between trombone, trumpet and an agile voice on songs like “Craziest Things” (a personal favourite).

He wrote or co-wrote all the songs on his latest CD For True, released earlier this year, which features guest artists (and fans) like Kid Rock, Lenny Kravitz, Ivan And Cyril Neville among others, and his first CD, Backatown, was Grammy nominated in 2010. While the front four of saxes, guitar and Trombone Shorty traded off solos, sometimes in rapid fire succession, and he was generous in acknowledging the band’s prowess, there was clearly only one star firing up that stage. It was a full on assault of sound that had the packed like sardines crowd in perpetual motion.

Trombone Shorty’s set was preceded by hometown opening act The Heavyweight Brass Band. The innovative quintet got the evening off to a great start with their fresh take on the New Orleans style, featuring trumpet, trombone, tenor sax, drums and a dancing sousaphone player who amazed with riffs as nimble as any bass player’s. He doubles on vocals too, and had the crowd in the palm of his hand for a slow and sexy version of St. James Infirmary Blues. Their music is a combination of classic and modern standards, originals penned by various members of the group and stylish arrangements of pop tunes – last night we were treated to Justin Bieber – and it’s lit up by their obvious enthusiasm for the genre along with impeccable chops.

That big and multi-racial crowd included everyone from university students to retirees, proving the vast appeal of the music. Maybe jazz is the universal language

Find out more about Trombone Shorty at www.tromboneshorty.com; Heavyweight Brass Band www.heavyweightsbrassband.com

For more info on NuJazz Festival, visit  www.nujazz.ca

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One Comment »

  • Electronica said:

    great groove…. gotta love the trombone!

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