“Supafunkrock.” That’s the word Trombone Shorty coined to describe the music he and his band Orleans Avenue play. The term captures only part of the ingredients the band mixes into its musical mélange. Besides funk and rock, the band adds generous helpings of soul, blues, hip-hop and jazz. Mostly, however, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue set out to create one big party. And it’s no wonder; they’re from New Orleans after all.
Friday night, Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty, brought his New Orleans party to the sold-out Ogden Theater in Denver. TSOA matched the broad range of styles with an equally wide time span from which they drew their material. The single largest source of tunes was from the band’s 2010 album Backatown and the follow-up, 2011’s For True. Most of those are band originals with the exception of Alan Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down.” The band paid homage to their New Orleans roots (and Louis Armstrong) with Dixieland classics like “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “St. James Infirmary” and “Down by the Riverside.” Drawing from somewhere in between, chronologically, the band covered Al Green’s “Let’s Get It On.” And of course, any band heavily into the funk that also features three horns had to tip its hat to the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. The combination yielded a cross-generational appeal. Audience members Friday night ranged in age from several kids around 12 years old to a number of folks well into their 70s.
Ironically, Trombone Shorty played trumpet as much as he played trombone. That’s certainly no complaint because the different registers of the two instruments added variety to the band’s sound. Despite his nickname, Andrews wielded the trumpet just as confidently and forcefully as he did the trombone. The band has obviously been playing together for some time and was tighter than Mitt Romney’s boxer shorts. The horn lines weren’t always played strictly in unison. The arrangements used punchy countermelodies that often hinted at a Dixieland sound. When grafted to a funky bass and drum line and a scratchy, syncopated guitar, the result was a big chunk of Bourbon Street landing right in the middle of downtown Denver.
Throughout the two hour show, Andrews proved his showmanship as well as his musicianship. Not surprisingly (for a show like this), he frequently solicited audience participation with call and response sequences, sometimes even requiring the crowd to sing a syncopated riff. The Trombone Shorty audience delivered. Toward the end of the show, Andrews plunged into the throng down front with his wireless mic and an extremely nervous security guard close behind. (He emerged unscathed! A victory for the security guard!) At another point in the show, Andrews organized a dance contest for the band members. (The drummer got a pass; the beat must go on!) And to further the personal connection with the fans, Andrews sang about half the songs. Although not his strongest point, his vocals were more than adequate. If Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue were strictly an instrumental act, their popularity would suffer. People like to sing along, after all.
At age 27, Andrews has assimilated a wide variety of American music and come up with a sound not quite like anything before. The exciting new sound, the exuberance, the virtuosity and an ambitious touring schedule are making TSOA a force on the live music scene.
Troy Andrews, trombone, trumpet, vocals
Mike Ballard, bass
Pete Murano, guitar
Joey Peebles, drums
Dan Oestreicher, bari sax
Tim McFatter, tenor sax