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209: The Real Group: ‘Monica Vals’ (‘Waltz for Debby’)

Posted by jeff on Dec 12, 2014 in A Cappella, Jazz, Nordic, Song Of the week, Vocalists

The Real Group, ‘Monica Vals’

Margareta Bengtson

Margareta Bengtson

I was hanging with some musical friends this week, watching an old video of theirs, relaxed and routine, when – boom! – four minutes in heaven.

The Real Group. Margareta Bengtson. Monica Zetterlund. Bill Evans. Let me explain. But I’ll probably get all historical and detailed way beyond what any normal person would care about. So unless you have the patience of a stone, feel free to listen, watch, and be transported. The Real Group, ‘Monica Vals’.

In 1953, Bill Evans (1929-80) was released from the army. He’d finished a degree in classical piano at Southeastern Louisiana College and was trying to decide which direction to pursue, classical or jazz. So he took a year off, living in his parents’ home and practicing. He would visit his brother Harry (who eventually became a music professor and a suicide; here’s an mind-opening interview by Harry of Bill from 1964, very much worth studying) and his three-year old niece Debby.

Bill Evans & Monica Zetterlund

Bill Evans & Monica Zetterlund

‘Waltz for Debby’ has become a jazz classic, written mostly in ¾, not a common jazz signature. It’s charming, disarming, lovely and tender. It’s the genius that is Bill Evans at his best.

Evans included it on his first album, “New Jazz Conceptions” (1956), a solo performance. Perhaps his finest treatments of it were on his masterpiece recording “Live at the Village Vanguard” (1961), with Paul Motion on drums and the immortal (but fated to die 10 days later) Scott LaFaro on bass. Here’s Take One and Take Two. Here’s a posting dedicated to that session, one of the most sublime pieces of music I’ve encountered.

The Real Group then

The Real Group then

Evans played ‘Waltz for Debby’ throughout his career, right up to the end – here it is from 1980 (with Joe LaBarbera on drums and Marc Johnson on bass), exactly one month before his tragic but inevitable death. Well, aren’t all tragic deaths inevitable? The song is usually performed gently (1956, 1961). Here in 1980, on the edge of the abyss, he invests in it a frightening passion that I discussed at length in a blog post about another signature song of his, ‘Nardis’.

In 1963, Evans asked his friend Gene Lees to write lyrics for the song. Some people think they’re precious and wonderful, some think they’re painfully kitsch and demean a perfectly restrained song. Me? I’m so caught up in the music I don’t even hear them.

The Real Group now

The Real Group now

I’ve found no evidence of why Evans asked for lyrics. The first version I can find a recording is a respectable treatment by Dutch singer named Rita Reyes, recorded for Dutch TV in 1964. In contrast, Johnny Hartman croons it to death in the same year (the follow-up album to his legendary collaboration John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the divine Sarah Vaughn’s version from 1966. Also unfortunately, it’s easy to find the 1975 Tony Bennet/Bill Evans duet collaboration. As my friend ML put it so well: “Tony Bennet doesn’t sing on that album, he shouts.”

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Bill Evans & Monica Zetterlund

In the summer of 1964, Evans made his first trip to Europe, with his second trio – Chuck Israels on bass, Larry Bunker on drums. In Sweden he met a young singer named Monica Zetterlund (1937-2005), who had made a recording of ‘Waltz for Debby’ with lyrics by Beppe Wolgers, ‘Monica Vals’. They cut a wonderful album together, a paragon of passionate restraint (Evans) meeting icy perfection (Zetterlund). Here’s the recording, and here’s a TV video of that visit. While we’re here, here’s a beautiful ‘Some Other Time’ video from the same program. And here they are doing a beautiful, relaxed rehearsal of ‘Monica Vals’ two years later, with Eddie Gomez on bass and a Swedish drummer.

In 1984, five Swedish friends were at studying together at the Royal Academy of Music. They felt that other friends played all the instruments and styles better than they did, so they decided to try something different – singing jazz classics a cappella. Thus was born the genre I love so well, ‘modern a cappella’. They began by listening to classic jazz such as Count Basie/Quincy Jones and replicating it vocally, each voice singing a different instrument/part, resulting in a pure, breathtaking polyphony.  A couple of their earliest efforts were arrangements by Peder Karlsson of early Evans’ tunes: ‘Very Early’ and ‘Monica Vals’. Here’s an extensive interview I had with Peder describing the riveting metamorphosis of the group.

Margareta Bengston

Margareta Bengston

And finally – our Song of The Week, our Performance of The Week, our four minutes of heaven of the week: The Real Group performing ‘Monica Vals’, live in Stockholm, 2005. The soloist is the original soprano, Margareta Bengtson, who left the group in 2006.

Scott LaFaro’s bass part written by Peder for Anders Jalkéus; the intricate, marvelous tapestry of Katarina Henryson, Anders Edenroth and Peder – this is as good as it gets. And Margareta’s solo is a simply a wonder of the world. Such precision, such love, such delicate charisma.

Here’s their reunion performance of ‘Monica Vals’ from The Real Group Festival in Stockholm, 2012, which I was blessed to be present at. If you hear someone in the audience crying from utter bliss, that just might be me.

Monica Zetterlund

Monica Zetterlund

I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know all the members of The Real Group to varying degrees. Some are warm acquaintances, some dear friends. It’s a unique experience for me to know people to whom I both feel close personally and also admire so profoundly as artists.

Hey, Margareta, how are you? When I heard and saw you singing ‘Monica Vals’ this week, in my mind I gave a slight bow and kissed your hand. I don’t know how else to thank you for touching my ears and my mind and my heart so wondrously.

When they say ‘The voice is the only instrument made by God’, this is what they’re referring to. I just can’t imagine anything more perfect.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

Aarhus Vocal Festival, 2013
173: The Real Group, ‘Nature Boy’
The New A Cappella
059: The Real Group, ‘Joy Spring’
124: Bill Evans, ‘Nardis’
096: Bill Evans (solo), ‘Easy To Love’
060: The Bill Evans Trio, ‘Gloria’s Step’ from “Live at The Village Vanguard”

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020: Esperanza Spalding, ‘I Know You Know’

Posted by jeff on Jul 1, 2014 in Jazz, Song Of the week, Vocalists

Ah, women.

I’ve always had a thing for female singers, ever since the good old days (Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Rickie Lee Jones, Tracy Nelson, Emmylou Harris. I’m intentionally excluding Janis Joplin and Carole King for reasons I won’t go into, even though I admire both of them as artists and as women.)

But then all these years listening to jazz. The female vocalists are a great genre unto themselves (over recent years I’ve had my flings with Anita O’Day – my favorite of them, Ella, Lady Day, Blossom Dearie, June Christy, Rosemary Clooney, Holly Cole, Patti of Tuck&Patti, Julie London, Sarah Vaughan, Helen Merrill, Ahinoam Nini, Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson, Peggy Lee). But they’re all performers, interpreters. None of them are really artists in the sense of creating a uniquely personal body of work. They may have a personal style, but in the end they’re interpretive artists, dependent on the songs of others. (It’s interesting that among those coming from the rock context, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and Rickie Lee Jones are all creative artists in the fullest sense.)

But with all due respect to all these talented jazz performers, they’re all what I would call ‘singers’.

Female artists in jazz? Have you ever seen a picture of Carla Bley? Here’s a whole blog posting on her. And recently, Norah Jones and Diana Krall, although both of whom have a lot of, um, appeal (if that’s a politically acceptable term), neither of them are really artists.

Let me try to define a few terms here (my personal quirky definitions):

Singer: one who sings songs, where the song itself takes center stage, and the performer doesn’t stray from it significantly; Frank Sinatra

Jazz singer: like the above, but taking material primarily from The Great American Songbook and/or improvising on the basic format; Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald

Vocalist: using the above elements, but with a degree of mastery and control of the material that he/she transcends it to make a personal artistic statement; early Barbra Streisand (see SoTW 009), Billie Holiday.

Vocal artist: an artist who uses his/her voice as an instrument, free of the fetters of ‘songs’ or genre, or clearly using them as vehicles for a personal statement. Kurt Elling. Bobby McFerrin.

Jazz vocalist: one who works in a jazz context, often outside the framework of songs, relying heavily on improvisation in open, challenging structures beyond the standard 32-bar format; I can’t think of a single such artist from the 20th century, but it does include the three young ladies I want to say a few words about this week, Esperanza Spalding, Luciana Souza, and Claudia Acuna

In recent months, I’ve been inundated with these incredibly talented, very feminine female artists. A couple of them aren’t ‘vocal artists’—Eliane Elias a successful classical pianist from Brazil, turned jazz pianist in New York, turned pianist/singer of Brazilian material. Critics like her jazz piano, her Brazilian singing less. I quite like the former, and I’m a sucker for a beautiful woman singing bossa nova. Not to mention the fact that she had liaisons with two (!!!!!) of Bill Evans’ bassists, Eddie Gomez and Marc Johnson (currently married to the latter, after divorcing Randy Brecker—now there’s a lady who’s committed to jazz!). And then there’s my most recent infatuation, Maria Schneider, a composer and bandleader from the border of jazz and contemporary classical music, who is so wonderful that I’m not going to let myself start talking about her now. Here’s my SoTW about her.

Likewise Luciana Souza, who released a new CD this week. She’s Brazilian (NY>LA), daughter of bossa nova bluebloods, and a really stunning artist in a whole range of styles. She also deserves a SoTW to herself.

And Claudia Acuna, a Chilean (>NY) vocalist I was just introduced to a few days ago, and am quite busy immersing myself in. More to come on her.

Well, after all that exuding and rambling, let’s try to focus on one of these ladies—if not the least of the talents, I guess she’s the smallest of them, a slip of a girl, 5’1″, not counting her hair. She’s 25, from Portland, Oregon, raised alone by her musical Welsh/Hispanic/Native American mother in a black ghetto (without her black father), spoke Spanish with her nanny, but somehow osmosed an Afro-Cuban and especially a Brazilian sensibility. Her mother home-schooled her. She discovered the double bass at 15, dropped out of high school at 16, tried music at college but dropped out, financially scraped through the Berklee College of Music and graduated in 3 years, when she was hired as one of the youngest professors in the institution’s history. Today she sings, plays jazz bass, sings, leads her own trio, and has released two fine CDs, “Junjo” and “Esperanza” of mostly original material, from which our SoTW ‘I Know You Know’, is taken. She’s considered one of the most talented young jazz artists around today, recently gave a command performance at the Obama White House.

She protests that she wants to be judged for her musicianship rather than her sex appeal, maintaining that ‘female musicians must take responsibility to avoid over-sexualizing themselves’. But if you take a look at her, you’ll see there’s no small dose of disingenuousness in that statement. She’s been featured in Websites such as (I’m serious here) More than Hair, Naturally Curly, Hot Mama Daily and Make Black Hair Happy. As well as not a few serious jazz sites.

She certainly does play up her femininity. Very successfully, in fact. What do you want? She’s 25, young, sexy, and on top of the world musically. And she exudes all of those. Thank goodness. Because that’s her, that’s her world, and she makes some very fine, exuberant music expressing it.

Does sexuality demean a female artist? What a stupid question. Of course, it’s not a necessity. Both of my favorite female artists from the rock context, Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro, deal with their sexuality at length in their music. And neither one is, in my eyes, very attractive. But sex is a central concern for them, and they each deal with it in a serious way, and for both it’s a central theme. (I’ve often said that I learned most of what I understand about what it is to be a woman from Joni Mitchell. But maybe that says more about me than it does about her.)  Sexiness is no substitute for talent. But I suppose I spend more time watching Diana Krall and Norah Jones than I would if they looked other than they do.

But young Ms Esperanza seems to have the world by the proverbial horns. Here she is accompanied by a pretty darn good non-jazz pianist, Stevie Wonder, who perhaps can’t appreciate her appreciable externality, but certainly gets the sex appeal of her music. And here’s another version of the same song, in a TV studio, with her playing an amplified acoustic bass guitar. And here’s another clip of another original song of hers, with a short interview, where you can see that she’s not exactly walking around in a burka.

I don’t know what’s happening in the world, all these sexy, incredibly talented, Brazilian-infused jazz chanteuses appearing all of a sudden. But I do know that Esperanza and Luciana Souza, are a major-league creative artist each. And I certainly am appreciative, and wish them both a long career making fine music, even after they grow gray and wrinkled.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

142: Kat Edmonson, ‘Champagne’
088: Lizz Wright, ‘Old Man’
033: Radka Toneff, ‘The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress’ (Jimmy Webb)

 

SoTW is a non-commercial, non-profit venture, intended solely to promote the appreciation of good music. Readers are strongly encouraged to purchase the music discussed here at sites such as iTunes or Amazon

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192: Les Double Six of Paris, “Moanin'”

Posted by jeff on Apr 4, 2014 in Jazz, Song Of the week, Vocalists
Double-Six

Les Double Six of Paris

Les Double Six of Paris, Moanin’

Quincy Jones, Moanin’

Oh, those French. Don’t you just love it when they try to outdo Americans in appreciating American jazz? Sometimes it’s great, as in Bernard Travernier’s touching 1986 film “’Round Midnight”, starring saxophone great Dexter Gordon as an amalgam of real expat Black musicians in Paris in the 1950s.

But there’s a special pleasure (for us Americans) when they fall on their froggy faces trying to imitate it, so that we can condescend from our culturocentric comfort zone, titting for tat that hard-coded snobbism that seems to be their veritable raison d’etre.

Les Double Six with Quincy Jones

Les Double Six with Quincy Jones

The vocal jazz groups of the 1930s and 1940s (The Boswell Sisters, The Ames Brothers, The Andrews Sisters) all sang in melodious, pleasing tight harmony, in the style of the Big Bands they often fronted. After WWII, Charlie Parker kicked jazz into the modern era with his be-bop – frenetic, witty, ironic, faster than the ear can hear. Vocal groups couldn’t keep up.

Les Double Six – ‘Boplicity’ (live video)

Only a decade later, in 1959, Mimi Perrin got together in Paris a sextet of jazz enthusiasts to recreate the au courant bop music in a vocal setting. They took recordings of Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, but mostly Count Basie and the young Quincy Jones, copied them note-for-note, including the improvised solos, all set to lyrics written by Perrin. Then they double-tracked it all (a new technology) for breadth – hence Les Double Six of Paris.

It was undeniably a remarkable achievement. To my mind, with apologies to Dr. Johnson: ‘Sir, six French singers attempting to replicate virtuoso American jazz is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.’

Let’s take a listen to an original and its French cover.

Les Double Six of Paris

Les Double Six of Paris

Moanin’” was written by pianist Bobby Timmons for drummer Art Blakey’s star-breeding hard-bop group The Jazz Messengers. Hard Bop is jazz’s Motown – brash and Black, funky and fun, superficial and sexy. Blue Note was almost as dominant a label for hard bop (second half of the 1950s) as Motown was for its very own brand of pop-commercial rhythm and blues/soul (throughout the 1960s). Both were created by Blacks and bought by Whites. In the beginning, Motown was recorded in Berry Gordy’s Detroit garage, whereas hard bop was recorded in the Englewood, NJ, living room of dentist Rudy Van Gelder (whose wife is probably still complaining about it today).

“Moanin’” became a hard-bop hit, covered by artists as disparate as Charles Mingus, Ray Charles (arranged by Q. Jones), Lambert Hendricks & Ross (more about them below), British fingerpicker Davey Graham (remember Paul Simon’s cover of his ‘Anji’?) and two graven images from American Idol.

The source here isn’t Art Blakey’s original, but rather Quincy Jones’ cover. And here’s Les Double Six’s version, entitled ‘La complainte du bagnard’ (‘The Convict’s Lament’). And for all you French speakers, here are Mimi Perrin’s lyrics, including those for Clark Terry’s trumpet solo and Paul Chambers’ bass solo.

For all you serious students of this trivia out there, here’s a compendium of Les Six and the originals. There will be a quiz on the material next week.

Quincy Jones – Walkin’Quincy Jones – Moanin’

Quincy Jones – Boo’s Bloos

Miles Davis ­– Boplicity

John Coltrane – Naima

Charlie Parker – Scrapple from the Apple

Les Double Six – Walkin’Les Double Six – Moanin’

Les Double Six – Boo’s Bloos

Les Double Six – Boplicity

Les Double Six – Naima

Les Double Six – Scrapple from the Apple

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

Les Double Six were one of the two prominent vocal jazz groups of the late 1950s/early 1960s, together with the aforementioned Lambert Hendricks & Ross (who also overdubbed themselves on occasion, making them The Double Trio of New York). Both groups were intelligent, sophisticated, artistically sincere. Both leave me pretty cold, as do LH&S’s successors, Manhattan Transfer. All three of these groups, to my ears, are collectives of soloists singing virtuosic music in tandem – just like the hard boppers that they were copying.

Les Double Six recorded four albums from 1959-1964; LH&R about 10 during more or less the same period; and Manhattan Transfer innumerable ones from 1971 till today. None of the three really appeal to me. I don’t know why, they should. I admire all three, the first two greatly. I just don’t enjoy their music.

The original Swingle Singers

The original Swingle Singers

This is in contrast to two other offshoots, both of which appeal to me greatly. First is The Swingle Singers, a French octet led by American Ward Swingle, who together with many other of the Swingles graduated from Mimi Perrin’s collective (which, by the way, had a rather floating membership which differed for each recording session).

Swingle’s singers were friends who got together to sing some JS Bach as a sight-reading exercise, and found it no less swingable (employing a string bass and brushed drums) than Basie or Jones. They recorded an album of this material as a present for friends which went viral and won two Grammies.

The Real Group

The Real Group

For the second offshoot, you have to jump ahead almost 20 years to Stockholm, where five young Swedish music students were scouring around for something new to sing. They listened to Les Double Six and to LH&R, but went back to the Count Basie originals with a new approach. They became The Real Group, copying neither the original nor the copiers of the original, but genuinely recreating Basie’s scores with five voices – a cappella, no rhythm section to lean on.

They weave a polyphonic tapestry that reimagines in five voices the original 16-19 instruments. It’s technically mind-boggling, it’s beautiful and it’s riveting.

Here’s a Basie original (1957), and here’s The Real Group’s recreation of it. And here’s a looong, detailed interview I did with Peder Karlsson, a founding member of the group, about just how The Real Group’s music came into being.

The Real Group has spawned a whole little world of young cappella groups throughout the world, especially in Scandinavia. Here’s a stunning performance by the 12-voice Danish group, Touche, with their leader Jesper Holm’s arrangement of Count Basie’s ‘Shiny Stockings’.

I don’t know what Count Basie would say, but I think the vocal interpretations of his music have made a quantum leap forward over the 60 years since he first created it.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:
Miles Davis, ‘Boplicity’ (“Birth of the Cool”)
Swingle Singers, ‘Sinfonia’ (JS Bach)
Kurt Elling, ‘Li’l Darlin’’
The Real Group, ‘Joy Spring’

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187: Trombone Shorty, ‘Hurricane Season’

Posted by jeff on Jan 17, 2014 in Jazz, Other, Song Of the week

Trombone Shorty–‘Hurricane Season’

Trombone Shorty–‘Fire and Brimstone’

Trombone Shorty–‘Hurricane Season/Long Weekend/Fire and Brimstone’ (live)

Song of The Week #187, can you believe that? With all the interrupts, that’s about five years’ worth of my musical musings and bloggish blathering. This week we’re going back to our roots (in an inspirational sense), and we’re going to take the opportunity to do a little retrospective, a “Making-of-SoTW”, if you will.

All my life I’ve had this strange recurrent experience—I’m walking down the street, whistling, trying not to step in dog-doo or trip over a fire hydrant, when I spot a good friend a ways off. I watch him till he notices me, at which point a veil of horror clouds his face, and he takes off in the opposite direction. But this one time, about five years ago, the friend—let’s call him Irving Washington—in his retreat, tripped over a fire hydrant. I caught up with him and asked him, “Irv, buddy, what is it, what have I done?”

“Jeff,” he answered from the sidewalk, writhing in agony from the hydrant attack, “I just can’t take any more of your music. Please, you’re a decent guy and all, just stop dumping your music on me.”

“Oh,” I said.

And the light bulb went on. Yes, he’s right. I fall passionately, irrationally, uncontrolledly, Romeo-and-Julietly in love with a new piece of music every 11.3 days on the average. And I have this irrepressible compulsion to foist it on everyone and anyone I know (or happen to be sitting opposite on the train). Well, that’s fine when it’s a Doobie Brothers tune or a Miles Davis cut. But when it’s The Bulgarian State Radio and Television Women’s Choir or an obscurity from Oman or a Rwandan garage band from the 1940s—that’s something wholly other. (You know, that started out as a joke. But then I remembered that this week I acquired the CD “Hot Women – Women Singers from Torrid Regions” compiled by good old R. Crumb, a collection of chanteuses from the late 1920s-early 1930s from Algeria, Burma, Chile, Greece, Madagascar… Stay tuned for updates.)

So I figured out that I have to stop accosting the Irving Washingtons of the world, grabbing their lapels, sticking my nose in their face and explaining to them why they HAVE to listen to Aziza Mustafa Zadeh, for example, the very talented singer/pianist, the undisputed “Azerbaijani Princess of Jazz”. (That’s not a joke, Irv. She’s really, really good.)

Solution? You’re not allowed to talk to strangers about music, Jeff, let alone friends. Write an email. So for 62 weeks I sent out a weekly SoTW email with my ravings and an .MP3 attachment. But the list of friends and strangers who didn’t know how to define me as spam started growing, and my Service Provider started complaining. So we moved to blog format.

On the weeks when Real Life prevents me from generating a new post, I try to recycle one of those 62 to my list of subscribers, out of a sense of continuity and environmental responsibility. Since moving to the “Jeff Meshel’s World” blog format, I am indeed pleased that the list has grown steadily and respectably (if not virally), and now is comprised of a lovely mix of friends, acquaintances and strangers from all around the globe, including a number of music aficionados as well as some well-known names whose privacy shall be respected here.

John Keats listening to the Nightingale on Hampstead Heath c1845 by his friend Joseph Severn

While we’re backstage, let me remind you that there are several tabs in the site in addition to SoTW—Writings (various non-SoTW pieces), Jeff’s Music (stuff I’ve actually created or performed, not just talked about), About (about), and What’s New (a chronological list of all the SoTW postings). I’d also like to take this opportunity to say that SoTW is a labor of love, that I really do encourage people to purchase music and support musicians, and that I do enjoy reader feedback and strive to respond when appropriate.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with Trombone Shorty. Good question!

Just like in the Good Old Days, I fell in love this week, this time with a New Orleans funk trombonist. What can you do? As Woody Allen said, ‘The heart knows what the heart knows.’

Even princes and princess can’t bear to look.

I abhor talking to or about a musician if I don’t feel that I know his entire oeuvre thoroughly. Every single cut, every single outtake, every single bootleg. That severely limits my reservoir of subjects. But such is the case when you fall in love—it’s all passion and superficiality and blindness. You close your eyes to kiss someone because if you kept them open you’d be repulsed by their blemishes. It’s all about that moment of losing control, the swoon, being transported and transcending. You can read all about that in John Keats’ ‘Ode To a Nightingale’, in which the bird ‘Singest of summer in full-throated ease’, teasing him towards into self-obliteration. I’ve been there—Bach’s Cello Suites, James Taylor’s first (Apple) album, Bill Evans’ ‘Live at the Village Vanguard’.

Several years ago Trombone Shorty played at a jazz festival that I attended. I had done my homework, of course, and saw “New Orleans trombonist”, at which point I snooted my snootiest and elected to attend a different show. I do a whole wide range of musics, but Dixieland ain’t among them, together with polkas and lieder. My loss, at least with the last.

I recently started watching season 4 of HBO’s “Treme”, where I experienced Mr Shorty. And I was blown away.

Shorty performing as a child.

Trombone Shorty is Troy Andrews, born (1986) and bred in the Treme district (the oldest black neighborhood in America). He was playing professionally at the age of five, a bandleader at six, a club in the district was named after him when he was eight. His first release for a major label was with his working band Orleans Avenue “Backatown” in 2010, which entered Billboard’s Jazz Chart at #1, stayed there for 9 weeks, and remained in the Top ten for over half a year. It was followed by “For True” (2011) and “Say That To Say This” (2013). Together with the mayor of New Orleans he’s established the Trombone Shorty Foundation, which donates new instruments to public schools.

Shorty and Orleans Avenue

Shorty (trombone, trumpet and vocals) calls his music ‘supafunkrock’. It’s an amalgam of rock, hip-hop, neo-soul, jazz and funk, with New Orleans all over it. Funk, I confess, isn’t one of my go-to styles. Hip-hop even less so. I just don’t get it.

Music characteristically features pitch (melody and harmony), rhythm, dynamics, timbre and texture. Hip-hop, to my Woodstockian ears, has pitch—one pitch. That is by definition ‘monotonous’—one tone. I don’t get it. Mr Shorty has served me this week as my belated window into that world. He’s infectious, fun, butt-shakin’.

I don’t pretend to understand it, but I dig it. As Bird said, ‘You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?’

I’ve lapsed back into my old habit of accosting friends and neighbors, standing way too close, asking (demanding) in way too high a voice, “Have you heard Trombone Shorty???”

Ah, Jeff, shut up already and let them listen to some great young music. It’s not Keats’ Nightingale, whose song makes the dull brain perplex and retard. It’s New Orleans supafunkrock. Yeah!

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy: 

010: Charles Mingus, ‘Remember Rockefeller at Attica’
017: Chano Dominguez, ‘Tangos del Fuego’ 
039: Blind Willie Johnson, ‘Mother’s Children Have a Hard Time’

 

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