Watching a concert by Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue is like facing into a windstorm for 90 minutes straight.
It blows you away.
Shorty and his tighter than tight band returned to the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival after last year's success and topped that show, even though much of the material was the same. Maybe it's just another year on the road, but the band ramped its playing up a notch, especially guitarist Pete Murano who nails that greasy funk rhythm so necessary to Shorty's mix of funk, R&B and soul, grounded in the signature New Orleans sound.
Shorty (a.k.a. Troy Andrews) is a great trombone and trumpet player, but he excels as singer, showman, band leader and crowd pleaser. Underlying all the showmanship, as entertaining as it is, is a rock solid band that makes it look so simple.
Who else but a N'Awlins born and bred musician puts together a band with a guitarist like Murano who can ground a funk tune and rock out with the best; with six-string electric bass player Mike Ballard who can rock out with Murano; with very good drummer Joey Peebles who, in the right light Thursday night, looks like Animal from the Muppets Show; and with saxophonists Tim McFatter (tenor) and Dan Oestreicher (baritone) driving many tunes and filling out a formidable front line with Shorty.
They mixed up their repertoire with sings from the bands 2010 album Backatown, such as Something Beautiful, with New Orleans staples such as When the Saints Go Marching In, and the Ray Charles hit I Got A Woman.
On Your Way Down, from Backatown, is a good showcase for Shorty as the slower tempo really lets you appreciate his vocals. But you still need the other Shorty, the one who wails and jumps and pumps his arms and exhorts his band-mates to play their best. Together you get the essence of Shorty's New Orleans.
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Opening act bluesman Lucky Peterson, a double threat on organ and guitar, sounded great on his instruments, especially wailing on slide guitar. But his vocals were muddy, and it was hard to decipher the lyrics even to a blues classic such as Dust My Broom.
Peterson's a showman though, and he pleased the crowd by walking up the aisles playing guitar in one of the blues' best-loved shticks.
His singer wife Tamara joined him for about half the show and the pair rocked the house.
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue
TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival
Burton Cummings Theatre
4 stars out of 5