Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews is the kind of player that's taken Duke Ellington's philosophy of genres truly to heartthe outlook that "there are two kinds of music, good music and the other kind." His jazz and New Orleans roots run throughout most everything he does, though they often share equal space with modern rhythm and/or blues, pop, hip-hop and anything else that gets hips shaking. Guests from the rock and roll world (Lenny Kravitz, Warren Haynes, Jeff Beck or Kid Rock) have been welcome on his recordings just as much as his hometown's icon Allen Toussaint. It's not an easy job to describe things in genre terms without running down a whole checklist. To Mr. Shorty (ahem) and friends, though, it's simply good stuff.
The pattern got a slight tweak with Say That to Say This (Verve, 2013), where the emphasis was squarely on R&B and funk far and beyond the other elements. This time he returns to the wider melting-pot approach with his Blue Note debut Parking Lot Symphony, complete with a prelude and epilogue that add the spirit of a N'awlins funeral with a little classical touch. In between, the album mostly seesaws back and forth between rowdy street-parade horns and radio-friendly tunes with slick beats and smart arrangements.
Andrews finds a sweet spot between those poles in the more successful moments, such as a take on Toussaint's "Here Come the Girls" that bangs as well as it swings. "Tripped Out Slim" and "Where It At" likewise funk up the horns in most delightful fashion. At other times it can feel like one particular extreme or another; the snaky "Familiar" practically begs for a glitzy video filled with black leather and bling, while "No Good Time" and "It Ain't No Use" are all smooth-edged soul.
If it sounds like there's a touch of schizophrenia or tonal whiplash, Andrews would probably be the first to tell you you're thinking about it wrong. It's all just music. A purist might prefer a rawer as-is performance rather than the layered patchworks of his studio albums (and a recording of the live Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue experience would indeed be a real delight). Then again, this clearly isn't music for purists anyway. It's for any listeners ready to celebrate life and togetherness, and Parking Lot Symphony again brings the party with swagger to spare.
Track Listing: Laveau Dirge no. 1; It Ain't No Use; Parking Lot Symphony; Dirty Water; Here Come the Girls; Tripped Out Slim; Familiar; No Good Time; Where It At?; Fanfare; Like a Dog; Laveau Dirge Finale.
Personnel: Troy Andrews: trombone, trumpet, tuba, vocals, guitar, piano, Rhodes, Wurtlizer, Hammond B-3, drums, percussion, snare, tom-toms, glockenspiel, vibraphone; Dan Oestereicher: baritone saxophone; BK Jackson: tenor saxophone; Pete Murano: electric guitar; Tony Hall: bass; Joey Peebles: drums; Chris Seefried: glockenspiel, mellotron, sitar; Leo Nocentelli: acoustic guitar; Ramon Islas: conga, tambourine; Paul Cartwright: viola, violin; Ivan Neville: piano; Juan Covarraubias: synthesizer; Glenn Hall: Wurlitzer; Tracci Lee, Ashley Doucett, Sabrina Hayes, India Favorite, Faith Mack, Chrishira Perrier, Remonda Davis, Raion Ramsey, Ashley Watson, Lonel Simmons: choir.
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