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TROMBONE SHORTY & ORLEANS AVENUE at the Phoenix, Thursday, January 16. Rating: NNNN
He goes by the name of Trombone Shorty, but Troy Andrews has more than one instrument in his arsenal. The N'awlins native is also an expert trumpet player, singer, percussionist and bandleader.
Thursday night's punctual 10 p.m. show at the Phoenix did justice to every one of those immense talents, as the brass master not only basked in the spotlight of Miles Davis-worthy solos, but played conducter to his five-piece band, Orleans Avenue, directing with emphatic arm movements whether facing away from or toward them.
The set also showcased the best material from their latest album, Say That To Say This, adding structure - in the form of Lenny Kravtiz-like funk-rock - to the proceedings. The most memorable song was album standout Fire And Brimstone - an apt description for what was happening onstage, actually.
Standing out in an exceptional band is tough, but drummer Joey Peebles fired through beastly solos - sweat flicking and long, curly 70s hair flying - managing to wow both by the sheer physicality of his playing and its necessity in the band's most upswinging moments.
But those times when Andrews was one with his instruments were the highlights - one trumpet piece in particular stunned the room into silence before teasing them into laughter with the melody of 50 Cent's P.I.M.P. (Shorty has lots of hip-hop influences and this was one of his less subtle ways of displaying them.) And another time, after a particularly emphatic stretch on his trombone where he displayed Colin Stetson-esque breathing techniques, Andrews held the horn aloft with one hand, reverent, almost like he was thrusting Simba over Pride Rock, as if the trombone was the genius and Shorty just a vessel through which it played. Which, we know, couldn't be further from the truth.