Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Mon, July 22, 2013
Doors: 5:00 pm / Show: 6:00 pm
SummerStage, Central Park
$35 advance / $40 day of show
Since the release of their Grammy®-nominated 2010 debut album, Backatown, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue have grown creatively while winning hordes of new fans performing nonstop on five continents. Their latest album, For True, offers substantive proof of their explosive growth, further refining the signature sound Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews has dubbed "Supafunkrock." "There was excitement from everywhere," says Andrews (who's now 26) of the experience on the road and how it fed into the creation of For True. "We did over 200 shows in the last year and a half, and every night we allowed the music to take us over. Musically and creatively, we wanted to shoot for some different things."
The band - Mike Ballard on bass, Pete Murano on guitar, Joey Peebles on drums, Dan Oestreicher on baritone sax and Tim McFatter on tenor sax – stirs together old-school jazz, funk and soul, laced with hard-rock power chords and hip-hop beats, and they've added some tangy new ingredients on For True as they keep pushing the envelope, exploring new musical territory. "We never sat down and really thought about concepts and what we wanted our music to sound like," Andrews explains. "It's just that, over the years, we allowed each one of the band members to bring their influences and taste in music into our music. Anything we hear or are influenced by, it naturally comes out in what we're trying to do. It's just our sound, and it happened naturally."
Andrews wrote or co-wrote all 14 tracks on the new album, including collaborating with the legendary Lamont Dozier on "Encore," while this time playing as much trumpet as trombone, as well as organ, drums, piano, keys, synth bass and percussion. Indeed, he played every part on the swaying, Latin-tinged "Unc." He's also come into his own as a singer, honoring the hallowed legacy of the great soul men of the 1960s and '70s. Like its predecessor, the new album turns on a rare combination of virtuosity and high-energy, party-down intensity.
Among the special guests are longtime NOLA cohorts like Ivan and Cyril Neville (who bring their trademark sound to "Nervis"); Galactic's Ben Ellman, reprising his producer's role on Backatown (percussion on opener "Buckjump," harmonica on "Big 12") and Stanton Moore (drumming on "Lagniappe Part 1" and "Part 2"); bounce rapper 5th Ward Weebie and the Rebirth Brass Band (who team up on "Buckjump") and Troy's longtime friend Charles Smith (who adds percussion to the same track).
"On the last record, we just basically did it with my band," Andrews points out, "but we've got a lot of New Orleans people on this new record - the music just called for it. The Rebirth Brass Band, these are all people that helped me grow in my career and teach me different things. And 5th Ward Weebie, who's one of the lead voices in the bounce community, we're like brothers. I'm excited to have those people on there, because they bring a taste of where I come from and where I'm going."
The album also bears the fruit of more recent relationships. Lenny Kravitz (who plays bass on "Roses"), has the longest-standing bond with Andrews, discovering the then-teenage prodigy in 2005 and taking him on tour with his band. Calling Andrews "a genius player," Kravitz says, "He's got nothing but personality, he plays his ass off and he's a beautiful human being." Kid Rock (whose vocal is featured on "Mrs. Orleans") came out to see Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue at an outdoor show in NOLA, and a month later Troy joined the star onstage at Jazz Fest.
Andrews played with Warren Haynes (whose eruptive solo further heats up "Encore") at his annual benefit and again at the guitarist's Mahalia Jackson Theatre all-star event during the 2011 Jazz Fest. Ledisi (who sings on "Then There Was You"), met Troy at the 2010 Grammys, later came out to see him in New Orleans and was later featured in a segment for the landmark "Red Hot + New Orleans" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, for which Andrews served as musical director.
His relationship with Jeff Beck (check out his blistering solo on "Do to Me") has blossomed since the guitar legend came to Troy's late-night post-Jazz Fest show at Tipitina's in 2010. "I was completely blown away," Beck said of his Tip's epiphany in Mojo magazine's "The Best Thing I've Heard All Year" special feature in January. "The crowd went wild. Troy and his band have just supported me on some U.K. dates. A sensational group of musicians. Trombone Shorty is one to watch." That led Beck to ask Andrews to play on Jeff Beck's "Rock 'N' Roll Party Honoring Les Paul," and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue joined Beck for his U.K. tour last fall.
"I'm fans of all those people," says Andrews. "I met them over the last year or two of touring, and I've been wanting to work with all of those guys and Ledisi. It's like this musical community. It's not like I reached out to them because I needed some big names on the record. I'm really interested in their music and their talents. So for me it's a dream come true to work with some of my favorite artists. Whatever they need me to do, I'll be there." Since Backatown's release, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue have toured nonstop in North America, the U.K., Brazil, Japan, Europe and Australia. In December of 2010, Andrews drew accolades as musical director of "Red Hot + New Orleans" at BAM. The sensational two-night run inspired The New York Times senior music critic Jon Pareles to assert, "Trombone Shorty had clearly set out to present New Orleans as a city whose glory days aren't over... it was a signal that the city's music would push ahead."
Yes, Andrews has made quite an impression on the critics. "Trombone Shorty is so ready for his close-up," The New York Times reviewer Nate Chinen wrote, describing the young virtuoso as "a native prodigy destined for breakout success." The San Francisco Chronicle's Joel Selvin hailed him as "New Orleans' brightest new star in a generation." Rolling Stone's Will Hermes raved that "Backatown is both deeply rooted and culturally omnivorous." And the Washington Post's Mike Joyce described one live performance as "a near-deafening, funk-charged blast of percussion, brass, reeds and guitar distortion that might have knocked the crowd sideways had there been any room to move."
TSOA's performances at and during the New Orleans Jazz Fest are legendary. In one day, Troy sat in for a set of free jazz honoring a recently passed mentor. From there he sat in with Kid Rock. Then to the Gospel Tent for a featured slot with cousin Glenn David Andrews before literally running back to the main stage to close the Festival as a special guest of the Neville Brothers. His respect across a broad spectrum and his musical versatility is further evidenced by his performance resumé, playing at events as diverse as Bonnaroo, the Playboy Jazz Festival at Hollywood Bowl, the Montreal, Montreux and Monterey jazz fests, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco, Austin City Limits, Fuji Rock in Japan, Philadelphia Folk Fest, Jam Cruise, assorted Blues Festivals and even a Reggae Festival in Germany. The band spent last summer crisscrossing Europe to perform at festivals from Spain to Slovakia. Andrews has also done a ton of TV, appearing on The Late Show With David Letterman, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Good Morning America, Tavis Smiley, NFL Kickoff (joining Dave Matthews Band) and a recurring role on the hit HBO series Tremé, on which he played himself in a recurring role. Along with appearing on Beck's Les Paul tribute, he's been a featured guest musician on the latest releases from Eric Clapton, Zac Brown Band, Rod Stewart, Kravitz, and Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars.
Andrews hails from the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans' 6th Ward, 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. Troy started early, learning how to play drums and what he remembers as "the world's smallest trumpet" at the age of three. By the time he reached six, this prodigy was playing trumpet and trombone in a jazz band led by his older brother James, himself a trumpet player of local renown who has been called "Satchmo of the Ghetto."
Not long afterward, Troy formed his own band with some other musically inclined kids from Tremé, and they became regulars at Jackson Square, with dreams of following in the footsteps of his brother James and Rebirth Brass Band, learning and carrying on the New Orleans tradition. While not only carrying on that tradition and expanding its boundaries, Troy has lent a generous helping hand to the next generation as well, having given longstanding support to the city's renowned Roots of Music program. Troy was also recently honored by being named the youngest member of the NOCCA Foundation board - the foundation behind New Orleans' Center for the Creative Arts where Troy and several of his band members studied and began collaborating. He's also gearing up his own new foundation aimed at making sure that talented younger players with limited resources can get quality instruments to play. Watch for much more news on that front, as well as a new CD, currently planned for an April 2013 release.
Soulive has never made any bones about what they do best; it’s right there in their name. Since forming in 1999, the trio of guitarist Eric Krasno, drummer Alan Evans and keyboardist Neal Evans has carried the torch for the soul-jazz organ trio—that venerable, funky institution pioneered by the likes of Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack McDuff and Groove Holmes in the late ’60s. Rest assured, when the Evans brothers first brought Kraz by their Woodstock studio, there was plenty of old vinyl spread out on the floor.
In their 13 years together, Soulive has followed the muse in the direction of hip-hop, R&B, blues and rock, collaborating with the likes of Chaka Khan, Dave Matthews, Talib Kweli, John Scofield, Derek Trucks, Maceo Parker, Susan Tedeschi, Robert Randolph, Joshua Redman, Kenny Garrett, Fred Wesley, The Roots, Ivan Neville and so many others, even going so far as to record a full album of covers by The Beatles (Rubber Soulive). But, no matter how they push the limits of the organ trio, they always come back to their bread and butter: blistering solos and grooves that don’t quit.
Their latest, a four-track EP entitled, SPARK, deserves a place on your record shelf right between Booker T. and a bottle of some damn good single-malt. Recorded over a day and a half with saxophonist/flautist Karl Denson (The Greyboy Allstars, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe), the record captures the smoky vibe of early-’70s-era CTI Records releases by the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington Jr. and George Benson. It’s the stuff Denson grew up on. “I’m older than the Soulive guys,” he says. “When I heard those records being sampled back in the late 80s, early 90s, popping up in clubs when I was over in Europe touring with Lenny Kravitz, that’s what really prepared me for this whole thing we’ve been doing for the last 20 years. It was a natural progression for me to finally do something in the CTI vein.”
Each tune was ultimately just a vehicle for the musicians’ playing, so, sticking to this formula, the quartet used very few overdubs. “Back in that era,” Krasno explains, “you bought a piece of vinyl and it had two tracks on either side. The grooves were kind of dark but really open and each musician got a chance to breathe.” Denson continues: “SPARK is really about the playing, less about the tunes. It’s the four of us collectively getting back to more of a jazzier thing than we’d done in recent memory.”
The first side opens with Yusef Lateef’s sultry “Nubian Lady,” featuring Denson on flute. It was a mutual love for Lateef that brought the quartet together to begin with—Kraz having studied with the legend and Denson having idolized his records. The laid-back tempo lets the group simmer on the theme until Kraz decides to slice the whole thing open with some Middle Eastern fretwork, leaving Karl to pick up the pieces. Denson describes the sound as “Something a little more chilled out but funky at the same time.” “Povo” is a perfect evocation of the era, first recorded by Freddie Hubbard on CTI in 1972, featuring some of Kraz’s most sinewy lines and a caterwauling climax on tenor from Denson. When the two lay out, the Evans brothers remind the listener why an organ and a drum kit have always been plenty good for funky jazz. “We’ve always loved James Brown and music that’s going to make you groove,” says Krasno. “But there’s so much more vocabulary from jazz that you can put in it.” Art Farmer would have agreed. The band’s rendition of his 1972 tune “Soulsides” slips plenty of ideas into the deep pocket, putting Neal Evans out front on piano.
“Spark,” the only original song on the record, was written in homage to legendary soul-jazz guitarist Melvin Sparks, who passed away only days before Soulive entered the studio. Known for his fleet fingers and deft sense of the blues, Sparks made his name backing organists like McDuff and Dr. Lonnie Smith. Krasno grew up listening to Sparks play at a regular gig in New Canaan, CT, and credits the guitarist with inspiring many of his own sensibilities. When Denson asked Sparks to open for the Greyboy Allstars’ first East Coast tour in 1994, it revived his career. “We totally got along and had a great time over the years,” says Denson. Sparks joined Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe to record Dance Lesson No. 2 in 2001 and “just annihilated it. He was a great cat and a total musical mentor.” So, it was with sadness that the four musicians collectively penned the tune and with reverence that they perform the slinky strut, while dedicating the EP to his memory. Denson eulogizes on both flute and tenor while Krasno’s tone impeccably channels the musician he calls, “one of the great guitarists of our time and the coolest dude I knew.”
Recorded at the famed Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana, BLACK EYE GALAXY was produced by Anders along with engineer Warren Riker and Galactic’s Stanton Moore. Sounds on the album range from heavy electric mayhem to joyous acoustic melodicism, lyrics move from the darkest depths to the healing power of love. Black Eye Galaxy is a personal record for Osborne, but one with universal themes.
The album is a journey of sorts, following the main character (based on Anders’ own life experiences) from the uncontrolled, primal chaos of "Send Me A Friend" to the inner peace of "Higher Ground." The disjointed and brutally honest "Mind Of A Junkie" leads into the warm and hopeful "Lean On Me/Believe In You." The gentle "When Will I See You Again?" finds Anders rebuilding broken relations, while the feral and confrontational "Black Tar" (co-written with Little Feat’s Paul Barrere) says farewell to a dark past. The final four songs — "Tracking My Roots," "Louisiana Gold," "Dancing In The Wind," and "Higher Ground" — bring an almost ecstatic tranquility after the intense stress and turbulence of the beginning of the album. From ultra-heavy and challenging to sweetly soul-soothing and melodic, Osborne’s guitar work, like his vocals, is simply mesmerizing. Black Eye Galaxy is a harrowing but ultimately uplifting cycle of richly detailed songs that are musically and lyrically thought-provoking, exhilarating and completely engaging.
In the studio and in concert, Anders channels the music throughout his entire body, becoming a whirling dervish of pure energy. BLURT says, “This is modern music at its transcendent best.” PASTE adds, “He is wildly diverse, thoughtful and raw.” With BLACK EYE GALAXY, Osborne’s star has exploded into the universe, fully formed and spinning freely in its own unique direction.