Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue
June 2, 2012
In his introduction at the Keswick Theatre in the Philadelphia suburbs, Philadelphia Folk Festival director Michael Cloeren stated, "Musicians like this come along once in a generation." By the end of the concert, no one at the packed theater could argue with this bold statement, as Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews astounded those in attendance with his multiple talents. At twenty-six years old it would seem unlikely that he could have been playing trombone for over twenty yearsbut that is exactly the case for the New Orleans horn phenom who earned the nickname "Trombone Shorty" because the instrument was bigger than his six-year old body when he began playing.
Growing up in a multi-generation musical family, Andrews' big break came when he became a featured horn player in the Lenny Kravitz touring band at the age of twenty. After Hurricane Katrina, he had several important television appearances and began to tour with his band, Orleans Avenue. He has wisely surrounded himself with a group of young, talented, and exciting musicians who can funk up any tune, as they proved this night. The band has recorded three well-reviewed CDs and toured extensively, playing to packed music venues and for several NFL games, on most of the major late-night talk shows and, most recently, for President and Mrs. Obama at the White House.
The excitement was thick at the Keswick, whose crowd seemed to be divided into two distinct groupsthose who have heard the band multiple times and have become loyal fans, and those who have heard about the band, but never experienced them in person. With all of the hype around this young man, it was important that the product matched the chatter. By the second tune, everyone knew they were seeing something special at this warm summer-night fund raiser for the Philadelphia Folk Festival, whose director Michael Cloeren announced to excited fans that Andrews and the band would be closing out the 51st annual August weekend.
What most do not know before seeing Andrews live is that he is a multi-talented musician. He is able to move back and forth seamlessly between trombone and trumpetno easy task, according to most horn players. He is also a soulful singer who can excite the audience with his voice, his dancing, and his trim, sculpted frame. He has all the makings of the next music superstar, and it was evident by those in attendance that his appeal crosses several generations.
The evening started with a funked-up, horn-fueled version of Allen Toussaint's tune "On Your Way Down"a tune with the not-so-subtle reminder that fame can be fleeting. The band then shifted into the tune "Encore," with an impressive drum solo by the wild-haired Joey Peebles. The crowd was now fully enveloped in the music and began giving standing ovations for performances for individual tunes, finally remaining standing as the band pulled the frenzied fans into the act. They were especially impressed with the guitar solos of Pete Murano, an exceptional player with a whining blues style and clear, articulated notes.
The tone was slowed down a bit when the band played a modern version of "The Sunny Side of the Street," as Andrews did a tribute to Louis Armstrong and proved his traditional jazz chops with a nearly flawless imitation of Armstrong's high- note jazz trumpet style. The audience returned to their feet with the band's version of Ray Charles' "She's Alright," highlighted by the tenor sax playing of Tim McFatter and the low baritone sounds of Dan Oestreicher. Completing the band's sound was the electric bass funk beats of Michael Ballard.
In the end, the screams of the crowd brought the band back for an encore that included the very sexy tune, "Do To Me," where Andrews showed his ability to do some impressive James Brown-Michael Jackson-like dance moves. And as a finale, this New Orleans-based band had the crowd singing and dancing on their version of "When the Saints Go Marching In," to end this night of high energy music .
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue are an awesome force to be admired. Like many groups from New Orleans, they pull the audience into the experience, leaving them with a sense of joy at the end. Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews is one of the most exciting musicians to come out of a city known for producing exciting musicians. As Alan Toussaint said, " Don't get me wrong. We got it goin' on in New Orleans, he's just better." He also seems well aware that he is only as good as those who play with him. His multiple talents are accentuated by the great group of young, talented men that play behind him. Their extensive tour dates will expose their talents to a world-wide audience over the next few years, so they are no doubt a group to watch, and see live at a nearby venue. If this group were a stock, now would be a good time to invest.