Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews’ new album, Backatown (Verve Forecast April 20), is the work of a rare artist who can draw both the unqualified respect of jazz legends and deliver a high-energy rock show capable of mesmerizing international rock stars and audiences alike. With such an unprecedented mix of rock, funk, jazz, hip-hop and soul, he had to create his own name to describe his signature sound: Supafunkrock! Andrews is the kind of player who comes along maybe once in a generation, and Backatown is the latest, clearest proof that his artistry is as singular as his raw talent. The album title comes from the locals’ term for the area of New Orleans that includes the Tremé [pronounced Tre-MAY] neighborhood in the city’s 6th Ward, where Troy was born and raised – getting his nickname at four years old when he was observed by his older brother James marching in a street parade wielding a trombone twice as long as the kid was high. The cultural backdrop of the Tremé – the oldest black neighborhood in the U.S. – is at the very root of Troy’s music, on top of which he’s built his own sound. The streetwise, gritty feel of the term underscores the difference between the stereotype of the New Orleans jazz musician and what this audacious young artist and his cohorts are going for, and pulling off. Equally adept on trombone and trumpet, Andrews plays a variety of other instruments as well. He’s applied the same skill sets and fierce discipline to his vocal instrument, to soulful effect, as the album demonstrates. Surrounding Andrews is his band, Orleans Avenue – Mike Ballard on bass, Pete Murano on guitar, Joey Peebles on drums, Dwayne Williams on percussion and Dan Oestreicher on baritone sax – virtuosos every one. What makes this record such a kick in the head is that the band, working with producer Ben Ellman of Galactic, has managed to bottle the 200-proof intensity of their devastating live performances, which have earned Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue a rabid and ever-growing following almost entirely by way of word of mouth – Backatown is the band’s first recording to get a national release. Like their shows – which have been known to run for hours at an energy level that few others could sustain – the album turns on a rare combination of virtuosity and high-energy, party-down intensity. All but one of the 14 tracks are originals, the lone cover being the Allen Toussaint classic “On Your Way Down,” with the legend himself sitting in on piano. “Don’t get me wrong, we got it goin’ on in New Orleans,” Toussaint said of Andrews. “He’s just better.” Andrews was delighted when Toussaint told him he liked this version of the much-recorded song. Other contributors include fellow Louisiana homeboy Marc Broussard singing with Andrews on “Right to Complain” and Troy’s former bandleader Lenny Kravitz, who plays guitar and sings backing vocals on “Something Beautiful.” (Troy recently returned the favor, spending the better part of a week in the Bahamas playing on Kravitz’s upcoming LP.) Charles Smith, who plays synth bass on “Quiet as Kept” and the title track, is, like Andrews, a graduate of the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, the seed bed for such jazz stalwarts as Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr. and Nicholas Payton. Smith was Orleans Avenue’s original drummer, and still sometimes sits in on keys. “All my guests on the record are my favorite players,” Andrews points out.