Concert Review: Trombone Shorty Brings the Big Easy to Fort Lauderdale

Trombone Shorty; photo by James Biagiotti

On Friday and Saturday night, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, along with opening act Dumpstaphunk, brought New Orleans with them to South Florida as they took over Revolution Live in Ft. Lauderdale for a two-night stand of funk, rock and jazz music.

Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty, has been performing in jazz ensembles since he was 4 years old. Over the past 25 years he’s built a reputation as one of the most talented brass musicians in the world, and has performed with a staggering lineup of artists, from Green Day and U2 to the Foo Fighters. Since 2009 he’s led his own band, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and showcased his unique hybrid of rock and jazz all over the world.

Trombone Shorty; photo by James Biagiotti
Trombone Shorty; photo by James Biagiotti

Considering the reputation Andrews has, it’s no surprise that he’d bring along a group of bona fide New Orleans legends with him on tour. When opening act Dumpstaphunk took the stage at 9:45 each night, the group brought with them a unique blend of funk and jam music that was a thrill to watch. The musicianship of each individual player shined, with all seven members of the group receiving a solo at one point or another. Standouts included Tony Hall, who seamlessly transitioned from guitar to five-string bass both nights while also sharing vocal duties; and members of the famous Neville family, Ivan and Ian, on keys and guitar, respectively.

When Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue took the stage each night at 11:15, the group had a tough act to follow but still lived up to the challenge.

Andrews may be promoting his new album and Blue Note debut­­­ Parking Lot Symphony, but these were unique shows in that nobody in the crowd was really concerned with which songs made the set list. Compositions blended together as the group joyously performed, and the crowd was just along for the ride. Each member of Orleans Avenue received a showcase over the course of both nights, and Andrews flaunted his prowess as both a bandleader and frontman as he kept the crowd fully engaged with sing-alongs and choreographed dances with his band.

Troy Andrews is a musician’s musician, switching between instruments (trombone, trumpet, drums, tambourine and lead vocals) throughout the set both nights, and showcasing techniques like circular breathing (playing a wind instrument continuously for an extended period of time without stopping to take a breath) that left the crowd awed whether they fully understood the difficulty of his feats or not.

The only notable difference in the set lists between the two shows was the inclusion of some memorable covers from both bands on night two. Dumpstaphunk got the led out with an extended cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” while Trombone Shorty found time to include a spirited cover of Green Day’s anthemic “Brain Stew” in his set.

Throughout both nights, which were rife with improvisation, one of the most fun things to see was the excitement of the band members as they watched each other solo. Andrews kept a fixed concentration on whichever member of his band was being featured, and couldn’t hide his pleasure when watching them each enjoy their individual moment in the spotlight.

Neither group strayed from their New Orleans culture throughout the two-night stand, and in both sets Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue brought their own version of Mardi Gras to South Florida by playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” and tossing T-shirts and branded beads into the crowd.

Dumpstaphunk
Dumpstaphunk

When Andrews closed the second show with “Hurricane Season,” he didn’t bother to address the relevance of the topic. He let the music speak for itself, not talking to the crowd other than to introduce the band and make sure the fans were still “partying out there.”

While the crowd was much more packed on Saturday than Friday, both nights brought a friendly and inclusive group of people who enjoyed the music together. Many concertgoers were either from New Orleans or shared a deep personal connection with the city. I spoke to a fan named Griffin who was the first of many to speak as if on a first-name basis with Trombone Shorty. He referred to the artist as “Troy” in conversation and filled me in on the history of the jazz legends in the Andrews and Neville families of New Orleans.

Another fan, who introduced himself as “Horacio Horn Blower,” brought a trumpet to the show in a backpack and told me that he hoped to have the opportunity to jam with the band, which predictably never came to fruition. These encounters showed me that I was dealing with something unique from most of the concerts that I attend in South Florida. These bands didn’t just bring their songs with them—they brought their heritage as well.