Monday 25 July 2011

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue rock the Queen's Hall

They had cleared away the seats from the stalls area of the Queen's Hall and, rather than replace them with cabaret style table seating, they instead opted for a standing arena. Given the nature of the performance Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue gave, it was absolutely the right call. This was not really the kind of music that left you wanting to sit still and, though I'm by no means a dancer, I found myself slightly regretting my decision to opt for a seat in the middle of the gallery.

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Trombone Shorty (Troy Andrews)

Their music is probably best described as fusion, though obviously that term could cover almost anything, so I suppose I mean primarily the jazz-rock variety, though there's obviously a lot of other things in there too. In a recent review, LondonJazz note that '“Supafunkrock” is Andrews' chosen name for their style of music.' and this seems as good a description as any. In some ways I was reminded of 70s Miles Davis. Certainly Trombone Shorty's music is a good deal more accessible than that became, and yet, especially in the way it flowed from one song to another, barely pausing for breath, it shared something of the epic feel of those compositions.

But most of all it was toe-tappingly, gyratingly, engaging. This was music that grabbed hold of you for the whole of a hundred minute set and refused point blank to let go. It helped that this is technically an extremely tight ensemble. Though Dan Oestreicher on baritone sax to Joey Peebles on drums particularly stood out, there really wasn't a week link there.

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Joey Peebles

As an inept trombonist myself, it was a particular treat to hear what someone of the calibre of Trombone Shorty can do with the instrument. Though, in fact, he shared his affections with the trumpet, on which he was no less assured. That's when he wasn't singing. It was almost showing off, really. But then, he is a showman, as he demonstrated with an impressively extended note which seemed long even allowing for circular breathing, after which he collapsed theatrically to the ground. That this came in the midst of their version of Louis Armstrong's On the Sunny Side of the Street, perhaps gives an idea of how high octane an evening this was.

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Trombone Shorty directs Orleans Avenue

And when he wasn't playing, or singing, he was dancing about the stage directing his band, almost like a conductor at times. It was infectious, from the people dancing at the front, to those of us tapping our feet in the gallery and even the enthusiastic lady who kept trying to climb onto the stage.

My main complaint is that it was all a little too loud. Call me old fashioned, but I don't see the need for gigs to be so loud that you have to plan on bringing earplugs to avoid hearing damage. There's just no need. Also, the balance on the instruments wasn't ideal. I couldn't hear Mike Ballard's bass as well as I would have liked, and even Trombone Shorty himself could at times have been more prominent. His spoken links between songs were often not audible, though despite this he still managed to build up a good rapport with the audience, whether it be getting them to echo a chorus, clap, or when he descended into the audience at the end.

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Orleans Avenue - All Change!

All in all, it was tremendous fun. And clearly the band were having fun too. Midway through their encore, Trombone Shorty removed his mouthpiece and then climbed up to the drums. It wasn't immediately apparent what was going on, but one by one the band took up each other's instruments. The last time I saw this done it was Mitch Benn and the Distractions (also at The Queen's Hall), and they did it to make a joke about politicians stealing each others tunes. Here it was probably a mix of showing off and providing a little bit of extra stardust at the end. It worked.

Thanks to The Queen's Hall for providing the photos. Click on any of the photos to see the full size image or take a look at The Queen's Hall's entire Flickr stream.

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