By Andy J. Gordon
The Wednesday Jazz series at the Hollywood Bowl features an eclectic array of artists that stretch the definition of Jazz. That is a big part of what makes the shows special. On August 1, 2012 a large crowd came out to say farewell to The Neville Brothers who are legends of the New Orleans music scene and influenced many artists across musical genres, not just jazz. Playing a supporting role, but definitely not a subordinate one was Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave. The young bandleader and his supporting players are the embodiment of everything wonderful about the sounds of New Orleans. They were a fitting choice as The Neville Brothers pass the torch to a new generation of musicians.
Roddy Romero & the Hub City All-Stars from Lafayette, La. opened the show with tunes that varied between Blues, Cajun and Zydeco, an indigenous music that is popular in Louisiana. After a short break, Trombone Shorty and his band raised the excitement level as soon as they hit the stage. Troy Andrews got his nickname when he was just a kid and smaller than his instrument. Now 25, he is a fully grown adult with a world class mastery of the trombone, trumpet and vocals. His young band of New Orleans musicians can hold their own and Shorty gave each a chance to shine during the blistering set. Shorty started things off with some trombone pyrotechnics and Pete Murano on guitar performed his own magic while Shorty acted as Maestro. By the third song, “On Your Way Down,” from 2010s Backatown album, Shorty delivered some strong vocals and showed that he is also a master of the trumpet with a blazing solo. The next song, “Dumaine St.” from the 2011 Grammy nominated For True album was a showcase for Shorty’s incredible breathing technique. He held a note on the trumpet for what seemed like minutes while the band repeated the song’s hypnotic rhythm over and over. The crowd went crazy and when he finally ended the marathon it was as if everyone felt his exhaustion from the effort.
The latter half of the set featured Shorty’s savvy songwriting skills and a nod to those that paved the way for him. On “Encore” the band played a catchy riff that could comfortably fit into any pop radio format. Shorty sang smoothly and Murano laid down an infectious slide guitar sequence. For the old school fans in the audience, “I Got a Woman,” the Ray Charles classic, was treated with reverence as Shorty owned the stage. The crowd was on their feet waving hankies while Shorty sang, scatted and did his best imitation of stage legends that influenced him like Cab Calloway and James Brown. The show closer was “Do to Me” the catchy single from the band’s new album. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave. went out with some more horn wizardry, smooth vocals and a thrilled audience that was begging for more.
The legendary Neville Brothers were the night’s headliners. Art, Aaron, Cyril and Charles Neville have been performing together for over thirty five years. In that time each has led other music projects, often with multi-generation family members. The brothers have influenced innumerable musicians throughout the world. The band has announced that they will no longer tour so this show represented the last chance to see the famous patriarchs of the family together outside of New Orleans. For the special occasion, Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville (Aaron’s son) and Ian Neville (Art’s son) joined the group. The show was a trip down memory lane. They opened with the classics “Hey Pocky Way” and “Fire on the Bayou”. The band sounded great but Art, who has suffered from a variety of ailments over the years, struggled on vocals. In contrast, Aaron still has an amazing, unique vibrato vocal style that was featured on songs like “Brother Jake”, “Wild Flower” and “Woman Gotta Have It”. Charles got to display his saxophone skills throughout the set and had particularly dynamic solos on “Valence Street” and “Congo Square”. Youngest brother Cyril, who at 64 is no kid, brought some much needed youthful energy to the show. He played percussion and sang lead vocals on “Tipitina” and “Indians Got That Fire”, a classic Mardi Gras Indians chant and response song.
As the show was coming to a close, Trombone Shorty came back onto the stage. He and Charles Neville did a great duet on “Tambourine” while the rest of the band jammed. They ended the set with Cyril on vocals for Professor Longhair’s “Big Chief” which also featured a nice horn duet and solid organ solo by Art. Seeing Trombone Shorty onstage with the legends reminded everyone that although The Neville Brothers may be calling it quits, the great music of New Orleans will live on in the able hands of a talented new generation of artists.
Photos courtesy of ©2012 Jim Brock Photography www.eyeonthemusic.com