Discover more from Y’all Weekly
A Trombone Tribute to Tremé
Matt gets lifted with Trombone Shorty, who returns to North Carolina for an Asheville gig later this month.
On June 2, from front and center in the sixth row at the Skyla Credit Union Amphitheatre I was able to cross off the final act of my personal New Orleans jazz/funk triumvirate. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews hit the stage with his Orleans Avenue band, bringing down the house on the first stop of their summer 2023 tour.
First, some personal history.
Four years ago, I was sitting in Kermit Ruffins’ Mother-in-Law Lounge in New Orleans’ 7th Ward. You may know Kermit from HBO’s “Tremé;” he’s actually good actor if you haven’t seen it. Kermit and his friends had free food for neighbors and it felt like more of a hang out than a scheduled show. He played for two hours in a small packed club, though earlier in the day a small flood had washed out parts of the city.
The next day, I saw Big Sam’s Funky Nation. I first saw them live at a “River Jam Thursday” at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte. In the Big Easy, Sam’s band rocked out in a jazz club where they invited up college students to take turns against his bandmates with dueling solos. Second check mark achieved!
For Shorty, it was a perfect June evening in the Queen City. I settled in as 83 year old R&B legend Mavis Staples hit the stage. While the set was only 30 minutes, she powered through a half-dozen songs, including a rendition of the Talking Heads’ “Slippery People” that would have made David Byrne proud. Her raspy gospel voice and energy were more reminiscent of Mick Jagger than anyone in her age range has any right to be.
As the sun set, the English solo artist Yola took over and wowed the crowd. This was my introduction to the four-time Grammy nominated artist, and I’m glad I was able to connect to the live version first. She commanded the stage with swagger and confidence as she ran through a medley of pop, R&B, and soul numbers.
Her touring band had chops as well and they played as tight as the headliners. There were a few moments that garnered both awe and standing applause as Yola mesmerized the crowd.
These two sets were a good indication of what the headliners were going to bring.
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews grew up playing an array of instruments in New Orleans' Tremé district. He was performing live before grade school, and as a late teenager was part of Lenny Kravitz’s touring band. He blends jazz, funk, soul, and rock to create a larger-than-life stage presence. To hear more about his upbringing and life I highly recommend listening to him on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast.
Post Covid, I made a bucket list of experiences I wanted to have: catch The Rolling Stones while they are still touring; watch my beloved Syracuse play Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium; experience Bayern Munich at Lambeau Field; and catch the When We Were Young Festival to see my all-time pop punk favorites. The one that eluded me up to this point was seeing Trombone Shorty live and in action. The twelve piece band, dressed in all white - except Shorty in a red jumpsuit - hit the stage and we were off to the races.
Hats off to Shorty’s Orleans Avenue traveling band as they are full of world class musicians from top to bottom. His band features a brass section, keyboards, multiple guitars, dual drums, and two backup singers who had classic Motown chops (and moves!). Each band member had ample time to hit a groove, solo, or spar with Shorty.
Early on they covered Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” and got the crowd dancing. They hit classics like “Do To Me” and a drawn out, marvelous version of “Fire and Brimstone.” The highlight of the night for me was the breakdown where Shorty and baritone sax player Dan Oestreicher go toe to toe as the band propels through multiple solos.
There are very few times in my life when the hair stood up on my neck, but this was one.
As the night progressed, you couldn’t tell that this was the first stop on their tour. They moved as a well-oiled machine, and Shorty was like a prize fighter going for the knockout. There was showboating, dancing, passion, and pure energy pulsing through the crowd that oozed off Shorty’s horn.
The band finished with the title track off Shorty’s new album, Lifted. They grooved their way through a ten minute version of the song complete with every conceivable combination of instrumental solos in the background.
This was an amazing set. This is some of the best live music you can possibly see. The artists at the top of their game, and you don’t need to know a single lyric to dance all night because the energy makes the vibes electric.
If you get a chance, go check out Trombone Shorty and the Orleans Avenue band in Asheville on June 25.
The experienced-but-still-young Shorty has a long career in front of him. Thank you, Shorty, for checking off the final act in my personal funk list - complete with an F5 note exclamation!
Y’all Weekly is a reader-supported publication. Consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.