- Published on Friday, 17 February 2012 22:37
photos by Randy Cremean
words by Andy Pareti
Click on this button in the viewer to see larger photos fullscreen:
I can’t help but take comfort in knowing that I live in a world where a band like Trombone Shorty & New Orleans Avenue can rock a modern audience. A lot of great music today is made with the aid of, or, in some cases, entirely dependent on, technology. I’d be a stubborn and doomed listener if I lamented that fact. And still, I believe there’s something sewn into the pleasure center of all our brains that responds to the weighty, meaty, tangible presence of funk and soul.
At ACL Live on Thursday, Trombone Shorty and his crew from the Big Easy proved that the lost art of brass-based jazz and funk are in fact not just reduced to a regional phenomenon. Strutting around the stage with a rapper’s swagger, Troy Andrews (a.k.a. Trombone Shorty) was a burning pulsar of endless energy, steering his band through torrents of R&B, reggae and rock-based cuts that interweaved with the band’s specialty, jazz-funk.
Early on in the set, Andrews shone so brightly that it left his band-mates in a shadow. Songs like “On the Way Down” were so clearly dominated by Andrews, I had forgotten for long stretches of time that there were two sax players on stage. This was something of a surprise and a bit of a modernization of the old jazz bands that functioned more as a rhythmically-aqueous being.
While it is obvious that Orleans Avenue is a band with a clearly-defined frontman, that frontman is nothing short of spellbinding. When he wasn’t leading the way on trombone, Andrews was splitting stage time with a trumpet, drums, and good old-fashioned soul singing. The band segued from song to song with sprinkles of eclectic classics, from Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls On Parade” to Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away”, refusing to let the crowd catch their collective breath.
As the set went on, Orleans Avenue settled into more of a collective, as the five other members all had their chance in the spotlight, sometimes given even more than the obligatory solo. Eventually, the band spiraled into a state of controlled chaos, a jam of epic proportions, while not once wandering too far from the musical theme.
Music like the kind of Trombone Shorty is a visceral experience. It doesn’t quite linger, creeping into some cob-webbed crevice of your brain to follow you around for hours. Rather, it’s like a blow from a blunt object. It’s a different kind of power, the kind that can knock you off your feet. The kind we modern music lovers don’t really crave anymore. And yet, when we occasionally receive it, we remember how great it feels.