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TROMBONE SHORTY & ORLEANS AVENUE
September 18, 2009, 6:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

@ Sullivan Hall (214 Sullivan St.) 10p 4 $25

<One of the things I love about NY is the ability to find little gems of adventures most nights of the week.  I dare someone to walk in to one of these undiscovered live music venues, galleries or lounges and not enjoy themselves.  I’m not saying that I make a habit of doing this all the time…BUT…I love the fact that I could do so if I wanted.  At the recommendation of a friend, I was pleased to accept the offer to take in a bit of the Nawlins vibe this evening and discover one such diamond in the rough.

I had not heard of Trombone Shorty before but, when I was invited to the show I did the obligatory Google search to see who the act was.  I didn’t get half way through the opening paragraph of his bio before an interesting anecdote was presented…..read below…

“During a visit to a small New Orleans club, Bono and the Edge saw the 12-year-old trombone player.  “We walked in and the place was jumping. There was this little funk band, but they were all playing brass instruments, which is something I’d never heard of or seen before,” The Edge recalled.  “We were just mesmerized by him.  I ended up with Bono, after a few tequilas, dancing with a bunch of girls on the top of the bar. It was one of those sort of nights.”

The U2 front men have been exposed to some of the world’s best musicians so a statement like that can not be taking lightly.  Still, when faced with an artist’s bio you always have to remember that a good PR person can spit shine a turd to look like a ruby faster than sucking the head off a crawdaddy.  Not in this case though…Shorty was more official than a line judge at the US Open.

The group must have a pretty nice following because at $25 a ticket (a bit aggressive) the place was packed to the gills AND a last minute 2nd show had been added the following night.  It was hard for me to surmise how these club goers may have heard of band because the demographics ran the gamut.  You had the above middle age jazz crowd all the way to the meat head frat boys and their crew getting into the groove as the band opened up.

The musicianship that the band displayed was off the charts.  Their chemistry made them look and sound as if they have been playing together since kindergarten.  On stage, it was like a group of friends jamming, joking around and just plain vibing out with each other.  Mr. Shorty had enough charisma to stand out as the group’s leader, but totally absent was the usual self absorbed smugness this position can bring.  His collaborative spirit paved the way for his band mates to shine right along with him all night because remember…there is no ‘I’ in team.

The energy level from the band started at about an 8 and only went up from there. T.S’s vocal range was impressive.  Whether he was channeling James Brown for a screech, Marvin Gaye’s falsetto or a good old Louie Armstrong impersonation his voice had more soul than a shoe.  He contorted his mouth to squeeze out rhythmic syllables, scats, chants and squeals while playing rhythms on the trombone and melodies on the trumpet.  Shorty’s leadership skills were most apparent when it came to choosing his band.  Even for being so young, each of his mates were impeccable players of their instruments.  The total band was made up of a 2-man horn (alto / tenor sax) section, a 5-string bass player who had chops for days, a rock & roll-style drummer, congas/percussionist, this guitarist who played these intricate solos effortlessly (dude was ill!) and Shorty who switched duties between his 2 horns.

The beauty of a band (especially a talented one) is the flexibility it can afford.  Even when using the latest technological gizmos and gadgets it is impossible to re-create the ability a tight group of musicians has of switching from style to style, song to song, doing a remix on the fly or a spontaneous improv.  This band did all that plus ran through hip hop, funk, jazz, soul and rock without missing a step.  From a Dr. Dre (“Let Me Blow Your Mind” anyone) riff to the bridge on “Lets Get it On”, the Orleans Avenue kept the audience’s attention by spicing up their trax and interacting with them all night.  Classic call and response mantras (“when I say ‘New’ you say ‘York’) to the mandatory “Ya’ll still with us” lines confirmed that the audience was happy and enjoying the show.  At points (and this is why I love live music) their performance took over the musicians as individuals and created a whole living, breathing entity that moved in and out of a creative phase building and breaking down sounds and styles.

As their 2 and a half hour set rolled on, the crowd began to thin out a little but the group never seemed to notice.  If they did, they certainly didn’t mind.  Even I was tired from standing and watching the band empty their tank on stage so I cannot imagine how they had the stamina to sustain this type of long-ass set without a break.

The finale was awesome.  In a tribute to the leader’s home town, Trombone Shorty & the Orleans Avenue launched into a super extended re-remix of “When the Saints Come Marching In”.  Sick!  They completely tore the venue down with this one.  And in an ultimate sign of crowd participation, each band member took a piece of musical equipment and started a conga line that snaked off the side of the stage.  All while keeping a strip down percussive beat with a couple horn belts for flavor, they walked off the stage in a straight formation into the crowd that caused a frenzy for those lucky enough to stay and watch.

This kid’s soul is older than dirt.  He blew me away with almost everything he did.  Needless to say, dude made a new fan tonight.  Nights and events like this is why it is going to be hard for me to ever leave NYC.  -AV>

Artist/Event = 4.4/5       Location = 3/5

The energy level from the band started at about an 8 and only went up from there.
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