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Music that’s all local, all the time

23rd September 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Trombone Shorty Arrives with a New Album and Back Home

It’s an album and a date that fans of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews have been anxiously awaiting. Hot off the heels of the release of his new CD, Say That to This, Trombone Shorty arrives with his band Orleans Avenue at Lafayette Square on Wednesday, September 25. The free show stands as the much-anticipated centerpiece of the fall edition of the Harvest the Music series.

The last time the fast rising star – or maybe a more accurate description would be super nova – performed at the Square, he tore it up. Considering the gusto of the album, his third on the major Verve label, his impressive television appearances and the rave reviews of his recent live performances, Trombone Shorty is sure to do the same and more on Wednesday in front of a hometown audience.

As heard on Say That to This, the trombonist, trumpeter and vocalist immediately reestablishes his individual sound – the Shorty sound. It’s big, it’s funky, it’s recognizable and it’s New Orleans. In his own way, Andrews gets away with being at once old school and of today. Drawing on this city’s musical influences from the likes of the Meters and the experiences of the power needed to blow on the streets, Andrews also reaches out to more youthful audiences on the CD’s “Long Weekend,” that has a more pop-oriented theme. The result is that Shorty gets everybody dancing and smiling.

Social commentary plays an important role on several tunes on the disc and Andrews works it much as reggae artists have done through the decades. He delivers the message-filled lyrics rhythmically and with much soul and sincerity though minus any preaching. “Run, run little brother, don’t get caught in the middle,” he advises those facing trouble on “You and I,” one of the album’s strongest cuts. Andrews shares what he’s learned in life on “Get the Picture” proclaiming in an almost Neville Brothers frame of mind and style, “Some got the money, some got the dough, if you’ve got faith you’ve got what you need.”

That brings us to the special guests on the album. The original members of the legendary Meters join Andrews to perform their hit, “Be My Lady.” It’s the first time they’ve recorded together since 1978. The tune is done pretty close to the original though shines again with horns and the sentiment of the coming together of the voices of Andrews and Cyril Neville and of the generations.

Shorty’s vocal range impresses on the sizzling “Fire and Brimstone” that flashes with a potent trombone solo. Here and throughout the album, Orleans Avenue – with the original members who are Andrews’ fellow NOCCA graduates, bassist Michael Ballard, guitarist Peter Murano and drummer Joey Peebles plus baritonist Dan Oestreicher and tenor saxophonist Tim McFatter – is involved with every aspect of the music in every way. They and Shorty are one.

Say That to This puts hip New Orleans rhythm and blues, jazz and tight funkin’ grooves back in people’s ears where they belong.

RiverFest – Celebrating Music and the Mississippi

The Ninth Annual Old Algiers RiverFest (Saturday, September 28 and Sunday, September 29) enjoys a strong musical line-up. But beyond that, there’s also no conflict of interest with a Saints game as our guys play the following Monday night. The festival, which will be held just down river from its original site and not far from the Old Point Bar, is also taking place on the last weekend when there will be no fare to board the Algiers/Canal Street Ferry.

The Mohawk Hunters led by Big Chief Tyrone Casby, which is the only Mardi Gras Indian gang on the city’s West Bank, greets fest-goers at 1 p.m. on the event’s opening day. As always, jazz plays a strong role at the festival just as it has in Algiers’ history. In celebration of the music, artists include such notables as vocalist Leah Chase (Sunday, 2 p.m.), drummer Herlin Riley (Sunday, 3 p.m.) and more.

Uncharacteristically, nationally renowned trumpeter Nicholas Payton has recently been performing more gigs in town than usual. Last week, he was featured in this column announcing his appearance at the Prime Example. He’s also often been teaming up with Johnny Vidacovich for the drummer’s weekly shows at the Maple Leaf. Payton, who is now recognized not only as a trumpeter but keyboardist and singer, will perform at the RiverFest with Vidacovich and bassist Roland Guerin to close Saturday’s event starting at 5 p.m.

“I don’t play here much so it’s a rare treat,” Payton says. “Whenever I do, it’s something that I value. It’s always nostalgic for me because it brings me to a time when that’s what I did primarily. To play here is very meaningful to me because these are my roots.”

The first and only time the trumpeter played RiverFest was with clarinetist Dr. Michael White’s band back in 2004. With White, who closes the festival on Sunday at 5 p.m., Payton naturally delved into his more classic New Orleans jazz chops. Expect a more modern approach at Saturday’s show where he and the trio will turn to some of Payton’s original compositions from his latest albums including Into the Blue, Bitches and 2012’s album #BAM Live at the Bohemian Caverns, recorded with his trio at the Washington, D.C. club and released on his own BMF Records label.

Payton has high praise for Vidacovich who perhaps remains best known for his 30-plus years with Astral Project as well as for being a teacher whose influence can be heard in a whole crop of drummers on the scene today.

“He’s like an encyclopedia of New Orleans drumming,” Payton de­clares. “He plays certain grooves that nobody plays. He came up in the era where he saw all the greats from your Earl Palmers and your Smokey Johnsons and your Zigaboos. So he has a lot of range. He can go to a lot of different places and sometimes we go to all of them in the matter of one song. And it’s all him. It’s always very fluid, natural, personal and authentic.”

There will be some New Orleans music in the mix too, perhaps some material from Payton’s wonderful big band album Dear Louis. “To me what tradition means is something different than what traditionalists categorize it to be,” says the always observant, often controversial Payton whose blogs have raised eyebrows and blood pressures around the jazz world. In fact, he’s found that it’s led to some in the music business being reticent to deal with him.

“I’m a gentlemen, I show up on time, I play my ass off, I’m well-groomed. Those are things that matter not because I write a blog and say f**k,” says Payton who sees his comments as tame in comparison to those made in interviews by jazz legends like trumpeter Miles Davis and bassist Charles Mingus.

“That’s just the nature of the things that I speak of,” Payton explains. “They are not topics that are usually discussed in public forums. I speak about race a lot because it is important that we remember. In this age of growing passivity, it’s easy to mask the fact that racism is blatant — subtle and blatant. We need to remain conscious and active before we lose all sense of value.

Payton says that starting his own record label goes hand-in-hand with other things that he speaks of in terms of Black autonomy and artists having more control of their product. “It seemed like the next logical step.”

This article originally published in the September 23, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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