Trumpeter Andrews’ ‘Big Time Stuff’
8th August 2011 · 1 Comment
By Geraldine Wyckoff
The Big Time Stuff
Most New Orleans trumpet players tend to hold down triple duty. Their first loyalty is to their instrument that carries the weight of the legends who have gone before. In particular that means paying respect to the great Louis Armstrong. In keeping with tradition, trumpeters often feel it is necessary to add vocals to their bag of tricks even if that wasn’t a particular goal. As a leader, the third demand is to entertain and engage an audience utilizing as many talents as possible – dancer, comedian, cheerleader.
Trumpeter James Andrews has mastered all of these aspects that are again apparent on his latest disc, The Big Time Stuff. This all comes wonderfully naturally to Andrews who grew up in the culturally rich Tremé neighborhood where he was surrounded by brass band music emanating from the streets. He is also the grandson of the mighty Jessie Hill of “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” fame and remains the keeper of Hill’s joyous style. That’s particularly heard on the album’s cut, “Bet You a Dollar.”
Written by Andrews and guitarist/album producer Brian J, the tune moves with that totally New Orleans sway that shined on much of Hill’s works. The humorous lyrics derived from the oft heard come-ons of those hustling on French Quarter streets – “…I know where you got them shoes” – also share his grandfather’s flair. With his bent for dramatics, Andrews delivers the words with what sounds like a knowing smirk on his face.
The CD’s title track, “The Big Time Stuff” also benefits from light-hearted lyrics as Andrews laments over all the goodies – limos, jet-setting, beautiful women – for which he yearns. It’s a swinging number in the mode of the Tremé Brass Band’s “Gotta Big Fat Woman” or his own “Got Me a New Love Thing.”
Andrews moves stylistically from material perhaps best suited to neighborhood nightspots to the sounds more likely to emanate out of the doors of sharply appointed clubs. “Night Life” could well be the most sophisticated tune ever presented by Andrews and he makes it work with sincerely delivered vocals and trumpet interjections. A fine arrangement, which at the end of the tune takes a little Latin journey, is strongly executed by a core of solid players.
Throughout the album, the large, horn-heavy band, which changes membership on various tunes, offers a very strong base for Andrews and presents a full sound that sensitively doesn’t detract from the leader. There are an array of guests such as Cyril Neville who brings a touch of the Neville Brothers’ vibe to “Keep That Music Playin’.” Big Chief Monk Boudreaux comes in for the final cut, “Ghetto Funk Music,” that naturally incorporates strains of the Mardi Gras Indians along with, well, just about all the sounds with which Andrews has been associated.
James Andrews’ MySpace page, humorously lists his age as “102 years old.” His wealth of experience from playing with Danny Barker, being mentored by Tuba Fats, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, blowing on the streets with groups like the New Birth and Tremé brass bands and onstage with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and much more accounts for him being considered an old soul. On The Big Time Stuff, Andrews reaches down to that soul, to the New Orleans that he knows, and pumps it up with a fresh blast of ideas.
Andrews will be performing at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, 300 Bourbon Street, on Thursday, August 11, beginning at 8 p.m. There is no cover charge.
Even in New Orleans, things slow down at some point. Mid-August is that time. The social aid and pleasure club parades are on hiatus until the Valley of the Silent Men kicks off the new season on August 28, 2011. The Palm Court Jazz Cafe is closed until September 21 and while Julius Kimbrough’s Prime Example remains open, it has curtailed its Thursday night live jazz shows until September 2.
The situation calls for a little imagination and perhaps it’s the right time to check out some venues or artists that you’ve been meaning to do for awhile.
For instance, on Saturday night, August 13, Derrick Shezbie aka Kabuki, best known as a trumpeter and vocalist with the ReBirth Brass Band, leads his own group Young Spodie (yet another of his nicknames) & the Big Shots at the Three Muses.
There’s no telling who might join the trumpeter at the Frenchmen Street restaurant and music spot though with his stellar credentials on the music scene, one can be assured of a solid band. Last time he was caught with such talents as pianist Thaddeus Richard, bassist Chris Severin, trombonist Corey Henry and drummer Derrick Freeman. Now that’s quite a band.
Shezbie, an animated, frontline player in ReBirth, is no stranger to heading his own group. In 1994, while he was still a teenager, the trumpeter recorded an impressive album, Spodie’s Back, on the national Qwest label. Filled with primarily classic jazz tunes, the disc boasted luminaries including saxophonist Branford Marsalis, pianist Kenny Kirkland and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts.
At Three Muses, Shezbie presents a mix of jazz that could include such tunes as “Night in Tunisia,” “Big Fat Woman” and “Lady Be Good.” Though the venue is small, folks drift in and out to provide frequent openings at the tables and along the bar. Showtime is 7 p.m. and there is no cover charge.
This article was originally published in the August 8, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper