Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Trombone Shorty brings a party to the Minnesota Zoo

Originally published at MinnPost.com, Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Let’s start with four facts about Trombone Shorty.

First, his real name is Troy Andrews.

Second, he’s called Trombone Shorty because he started playing trombone at age 4, when his instrument was longer than he was high. His older brother, James, saw him marching in a street parade, gave him the sobriquet, and it stuck. Today, at 24, Troy stands just under 6 feet, more Tally than Shorty.

Third, he plays all kinds of music — jazz, funk, hip-hop, fusion, rock, R&B. He calls it “supafunkrock.” Born and raised in the Treme (tre-MAY) neighborhood of New Orleans, still passionately attached to his hometown and rooted in its rhythms, he’s a child of the 2000s and a musical omnivore. He has already performed with Lenny Kravitz, Aerosmith, U2, the Neville Brothers, Green Day, and a Marsalis or two. He also plays the trumpet, keyboards, drums, and other percussion instruments, and he sings.

Fourth, 2010 is his breakout year. He signed with Verve and released his first major-label CD (his sixth overall), “Backatown,” in April; it spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Album chart. He performed on “Good Morning America,” wowed the crowd at Bonnaroo, and appeared on the “Late Show with David Letterman.” He had a cameo in the HBO series “Treme.” His touring schedule is brutal. He’ll alight in Apple Valley between dates at the Montreal Jazz Festival and a concert in Connecticut, after which he’ll carom from Wisconsin to Colorado, back to Quebec, and later Japan and Brazil. New dates are being added all the time. I hope he doesn’t have a cat.
Here he is on Letterman. (And, for historical interest, here he is at our own State Fair in 2008, tearing down the Leinie Lodge.)

The sound of Shorty and his band, Orleans Avenue — Pete “Freaky Pete” Murano on guitar, Michael “Bass” Ballard on bass, Joey “In and Out” Peebles on drums, Dwayne “Big D” Williams on percussion, Dan “Uncle Potato Chip” Oestreicher on baritone sax, and Tim “No Known Nickname” McFatter on tenor sax — is feel-good music, high-energy, street-gritty and fun. Most of the songs on “Backatown” are originals; the only cover is Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down,” which Shorty completely revamped. Toussaint judged Shorty’s version a bridge between old and new, gave it the thumbs up, and recorded it with him.

It’s going to be a party at the Minnesota Zoo’s outdoor amphitheater this Thursday, a great place for a party as long as the weather holds. Shorty will play, sing, dance, and do his best to make us sing and dance along with him. He’ll probably perform a showy solo using circular breathing, the musical equivalent of an endless spin in figure skating.

And the ladies will love him. Shorty is making the trombone sexy. Not that Robin Eubanks hasn’t already done a pretty good job of that, but “sexy” is not a word most people think of when they hear the word “trombone.” In jazz especially, sexy usually means trumpet (Miles Davis, for example) or saxophone (James Carter, for instance). The trombone is the viola of jazz instruments, the butt of jokes. (What do you call a guy who knows how to play a trombone and doesn’t? A gentleman.)
I happen to really like the trombone, so I’ve been interested in Shorty since I first saw him live at a New Orleans jazz club in early 2009. There, he was part of a band backing Irvin Mayfield, just playing his instrument and doing a fine job of it. Now he’s a star on his own. It’s nice when that happens.

Trombone Shorty, Thursday, July 8, Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater. Doors at 7 p.m., music at 7:30 ($28). Louisiana blues guitarist Tab Benoit opens. All ages, rain or shine. Tickets online, by phone (1-800-745-3000), at any Ticketmaster location, or at the Electric Fetus.

Tip: Can’t make Trombone Shorty’s show? Head to the Artists’ Quarter on Wednesday night for a double bill of bones. At 9 p.m., it’s Valves Meet Slide, with Brad Bellows on valve trombone, Dave Graf on slide trombone, Chris Lomheim on piano, Gordy Johnson on bass, and Mac Santiago on drums. Next up, Locally Damaging Winds — the first group plus two more trombones, Michael Nelson and Wade Clark, resulting in that rare jazz bird, a four-trombone front line. Artists’ Quarter, 408 St. Peter Street (in the basement of the Hamm Building), St. Paul. Wednesday, July 7, 9 p.m. ($5). 

Read a review of the concert here.

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