Album Reviews

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

Parking Lot Symphony

Artist:     Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

Album:     Parking Lot Symphony

Label:     Blue Note

Release Date:     4.28.2017

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Thankfully Trombone Shorty’s Blue Note debut does not mark a change in sound, but in fact reads like a sequel to his highly acclaimed Verve release, Say That to This. These tunes sound similar to what Shorty & Orleans Avenue do live—get everyone moving, dancing, and shaking to the irresistible blend of jazz, funk, R&B, and touch of blues that never leaves vintage New Orleans behind. That’s what makes Trombone Shorty so special. He is as contemporary as they come, but respects the origins of the music. As one writer said, “Trombone Shorty takes in a century-plus worth of sounds—ragtime and jazz and gospel and soul and R&B and hip-hop—and attacks everything he plays with festive fervor.”

Orleans Avenue is comprised of Tony Hall on Bass, Jerry Peebles on drums, BK Jackson on tenor sax and Dan Oestreicher on baritone. Pete Murano handles the electric guitar and Shorty also dubs in trumpet, keyboards, drums, and even vibraphone on select tracks. There are not a host of guest musicians who appear other than New Orleans stalwarts Leo Nocentelli (acoustic guitar on It “It Ain’t No Use”) and Ivan Neville (“Here Come the Girls”) on the two cover tunes, New Orleans standards, by The Meters and Alan Toussaint respectively. Producer Chris Seefried contributes an array of instruments from keys to sitars. Five of the tracks feature a five person choir and lesser known guests appear on a few tunes. Ten of these are Trombone Shorty originals.

Besides the two covers, the album’s other major homage to New Orleans is the melancholy “Laveau Dirge.” They are bookends to the album. Rather obviously, they have their roots in the city’s famed funeral processions but also provide an opportunity for Shorty to show his virtuosity, with the intro being purely instrumental in the vein of a brass band while the closer features six vocalists.

Elsewhere, the album’s title cut hints at optimism, as Shorty seems to always create a party, even amidst our current political state. Other than “Tripped Out Slim” where jazz is the primary genre, anchored as most tunes are with a funky, throbbing bass line, the other originals are rousing or bluesy R&B tunes; or just damn nasty funk. The latter is true for both “Where It At?” and “Fanfare.”

No recorded statement does justice to the energy Trombone Shorty creates live. It is impossible to sit still. He’s just absolutely engaging and mesmerizing as a performer. Case in point—he will close the historic New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on May 7 and will appear at the Newport Jazz Festival in August. Thee will tour the states through the end of August, doing dates with St. Paul & The Broken Bones.

Trombone Shorty has a strong grip on his music and his audience. This, like its predecessor, is a keeper.

—Jim Hynes

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