Album review: Trombone Shorty’s ‘Backatown’
Friday, June 4, 2010; WE07
TROMBONE SHORTY – “Backatown”
Kindred spirits: Neville Brothers, Kermit Ruffins, Galactic, Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Show: Saturday at the Western Maryland Blues Fest in Hagerstown. Show starts at 6:30 p.m. 301-739-8577, Ext. 116. http://www.blues-fest.org.
Trombone Shorty (a.k.a. Troy Andrews) is already a star in his home town of New Orleans, and his first nationally distributed album, “Backatown,” may well make him a star around the world. He is a regular presence on HBO’s “Treme,” a charismatic presence onstage and a singer-trombonist who bridges the gap between rock, funk and jazz. He can please those who want to get up and move to his city’s signature rhythms as well as those who want to sit down and hear the city’s counterpointed harmonies.
On the album’s five vocal numbers, Andrews displays a sweet, high tenor in the Stevie Wonder mode. On the nine instrumentals, he uses trombone and/or trumpet as the lead voice, usually with percussive phrasing accenting the beat. Andrews, a product of the arts high school that produced Harry Connick Jr. and the Marsalis brothers, knows the importance of a strong, simple hook to catch the listener’s attention as well as further complications to keep that attention.
“Backatown” features New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint and Andrews’s former employer Lenny Kravitz, but most of the album was recorded with Andrews’s regular road band, Orleans Avenue. Pete Murano adds rock guitar riffs, and other cuts feature tasteful electronica or three-horn funk riffs. Throughout it all, though, is that second-line rhythm that could only come from New Orleans.
— Geoffrey Himes