Any musician coming out of New Orleans automatically has a lot to live up to. The Crescent City is universally acknowledged to be the cradle of jazz, America’s greatest indigenous art form, and with all due respect to such keyboard masers as Jelly Roll Morton and Professor Longhair, it’s the brass players who have it the hardest. Standing tall in a creative lineage that begins with Buddy Bolden and Louis Armstrong takes more than just talent and luck, and that’s why what’s happening at the Granada Theatre on Friday, September 18, is so interesting. In its ongoing effort to bring the best of every performing arts genre to Santa Barbara, UCSB Arts & Lectures is kicking off its 2015-16 season with a concert by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, the hottest funk act out of New Orleans in this century.
Troy Andrews, aka Trombone Shorty, is just 29 years old, and he has already covered more ground than most musicians do in an entire career. He plays trumpet as well as trombone, he sings, he raps, and he gets down with a force and authority that is second to none on the contemporary music scene. You may have caught him on the midnight edition of ESPN’s SportsCenter last Thursday, where he and Orleans Avenue played their hit song “Hurricane Season” as the first of their appearances celebrating NFL football season, a gig they will continue to hold every week all the way to the Super Bowl. Or you may have heard something off one of the three albums he’s made as a leader for the path-breaking Verve Forecast label since signing with them in 2010. And there’s an excellent chance that, even if you didn’t know it was Trombone Shorty, you’ve grooved to his work as a sideman with, among others, Eric Clapton, U2, Green Day, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, CeeLo Green, and Galactic. As if all that were not enough, he was also a regular on the HBO television series Tremé, which makes sense, considering that’s the New Orleans district where he was born and grew up.
What’s really important about Trombone Shorty is the fact that he and Orleans Avenue rock, and rock hard. My first encounter with the band live was at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2012, and if you don’t want to take my word for it, then here’s another critic responding to that show in the Monterey County Herald: “By the time [Trombone Shorty] was finished the audience didn’t know which way was up, except for the screaming F-16 Thunderbirds that buzzed the arena a few times. … ‘Can you feel it[,] Monterey? Can you feel it?’ Well, if you couldn’t, you were either a.) Not in the arena, or b.) Seriously in need of professional help.”
Just in case you need more motivation to proceed with this plan, know that the party starts outside the Granada at 7 p.m. with SBCC’s Trombone Choir and New World Jazz Combo, plus New Orleans–themed cocktails at The Good Lion.
Presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue play the Granada Theatre (1214 State St.) on Friday, September 18, at 8 p.m. For tickets and information, call (805) 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.