Trombone Shorty at NC Museum Of Art (Raleigh, NC 8/17/12)
Due to his grueling tour regimen and physical stage show, James Brown was known as the hardest working man in show business. But with 250 dates a year on his touring schedule and a stage show that's a strenuous workout for performer and audience alike, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews showed a capacity crowd at Raleigh, N.C.'s Museum of Art Amphitheater Friday night that he's worthy of that title as well.
The 27-year-old bandleader fronts a five piece band whose average age looks to be about 13 but plays like an orchestra of seasoned vets. Doubling on trumpet and trombone and displaying an impressive vocal range as well, Andrews' muscular, brassy, hour and a half show covers an eclectic range of styles and genres for all ages.
The 2 1/2 acre outdoor park/ amphitheater is a laid-back setting, a grassy, tree-dotted slope overlooking the stage. Audience members can pack in picnic suppers and relax on blankets or their own chairs or buy tickets for permanent bleacher seating a bit closer to the action. And even though the dance floor usually fills up with standees surrounding the stage as soon as the show starts, the sight lines are still good for those who prefer to remain seated from virtually anywhere on the property. But from the beginning to the soggy end of Andrews' show, most of the crowd was on its feet swaying to the New Orleans riddims pounded out by the energetic sextet.
Andrews and his band Orleans Avenue sound like Stevie Wonder fronting a band that blends the Meters and the JB's, James Brown's '70s allstar funk outfit led by trombonist Fred Wesley and punched up by local saxman Maceo Parker. Andrews 'bone solos have Wesley's funky imprint infused with second line riddims from his native New Orleans' Treme neighborhood.
The band opened with the blazing, brassy instrumental “Hurricane Season,” from his 2010 release, Backatown, following it with a treatment of Allen Toussaint's “On Your Way Down” that had way more fonk than the version Little Feat put out on '73's Dixie Chicken. Andrews booted the funk up a notch, slipping in a fragment of the Isley Brothers '69 hit “It's Your Thing” in the mix, underscoring it with piercing trumpet stabs.
He switched to 'bone for Rebirth's “I Feel Like Funkin’ It Up,” triple tonguing his way through a fluid and funky arrangement with the band draped around him like a blanket. He paid homage to another iconic N'awleans band with a slippery, buttery smooth version of The Dirty Dozen's “My Feet Can't Fail Me Now.”
From the looks of him, Andrews has been pumping as much iron as brass, his swollen biceps glistening with sweat as he prowled the stage, exhorting his band and the audience to take the energy level higher and higher. The dance floor was packed, but nobody was dancing; just standing there awestruck, sweaty bodies jammed shoulder to shoulder, bobbing up and down in place.
Fats Domino's “Whole Lotta Loving” was his contribution to '07s Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino that featured Lenny Kravitz as well as Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker on the cut and tonight's recreation had elements of all of them stirred in the mix for a funky gumbo.
It started raining on the second song and kept up a steady downpour all during the show, but that didn't dampen spirits in the crowd or on stage. A handful of soggy celebrants got up and left, but most of the crowd huddled under umbrellas,trees or makeshift ponchos and kept on swaying to the funk.
Andrews never let up, his tongue moving so fast inside the horn it sounded like machine gun fire as he triple tongued his way through blistering solos.
He reached back to the '30s, channeling Cab Calloway for a mashup of “St James Infirmary” and “Minnie The Moocher” with its “hi-de-hidey-hidey-ho” chorus that Calloway revisited in 1980 for the Blues Brothers movie, getting an energetic vocal toss-back from the damp but still enthusiastic audience.
Andrews proved he's just as versatile on trumpet as he is on 'bone, making his trumpet stand up on its hind legs and bark and squeal as he hit the high end of the musical spectrum, playing dog whistle notes barely audible for humans but still impressive.
Ray Charles' “I Got A Woman” sounded more Stevie than Ray with Andrews' vocals sliding effortlessly up and down the scale, showing off an impressive falsetto and an equally impressive triple tonguing technique while scatting. He switched to 'bone, throwing in some Wesley style fonk and a James Brown scream or two before ending the song as Ray.
“We ain't scared of no rain,” he told the crowd, earning him a soggy cheer. “ In New Orleans we get this all the time.” The assembled multitude here seemed fine with that weather report here as well- the grounds stayed packed till the end.
Launching into the roller coaster melody of “Something Beautiful” from Backatown, Andrews went out on the lip of the stage to press the flesh like a southern politico, shaking hands with anybody he could reach.
“Do To Me,” from his latest release, For True, showed off the tightness of his big fonkin band as Andrews worked the stage, part JB, part cheerleader, with something for all ages, all tastes.
Andrews revitalized the old chestnut “When The Saints Go Marchin' In” into a vibrant funkateer anthem for the encore. John Boutte's “Treme Theme” song from the HBO series got a brief treatment before the band glided into the Blues Brothers' version of Solomon Burke's “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love,” complete with some Blues Brothers high kicking choreography while Andrews tried to blow a hole in the stratosphere with his trumpet.
But Andrews wasn't ready to call it a night. Filing off stage and off mike for an impromptu street parade, he and the band snaked through the crowd, pounding out a lusty acoustic rendition of “Saints” and “Down by the Riverside” before finally bouncing back onstage to say goodnight, hurling a rousing WHO DAT at the crowd before stepping offstage, trumpet and trombone raised high over his head in triumph.
Photos by Grant Britt