A starry array of guests points this second album towards the mainstream.
Martin Longley 2011-09-05
Despite his stage name, Troy Andrews is also an adept trumpeter, which allows him to hog most of the brass band action down in his native New Orleans. Even though a classic street-marching sound forms the heart of his music, Trombone Shorty has already steered towards more mainstream pop/rock/rap/funk quarters. Indeed, his current tactics seem to call for mass commercial success, whilst still just about retaining his Tremé roots (Andrews appeared in four episodes of the recent TV series).
The required move for such overground aspirations is to corral a starry, guest-studded roster. With guitarists Warren Haynes, Jeff Beck and Lenny Kravitz on board, plus vocalists Kid Rock and Ledisi, Shorty has succeeded in spades. Despite this motley bunch, the album’s sound hasn’t become a random genre gumbo. Well, it might have, anyway, but that would be down to Shorty’s already all-embracing interest in a variegated stylistic approach.
The production is bullish and fully-aroused, densely aggressive with horny stabs. The beats are colossal but a touch too metronomic, although the higher frequencies provide a welcome jostling looseness. Shorty oscillates between trombone and trumpet solos, with the latter unsurprisingly cutting through with greater agility.
Haynes completely dominates Encore (the second track) with his signature slide howl, and Beck maintains the microtonal excitement during Do to Me. This last song illustrates Shorty’s rather basic lyrical preferences, targeted at the charts, as if they still mattered. The title cut sounds like Dick Dale surfing over mechanoid beats, whilst Shorty spits trumpet sparks at length.
The Craziest Thing is neither one thing nor another, sounding like Shorty’s trying to be all things to all folks. Dumaine St has a harder confluence of New Orleans jazz and hardass rawk, but Roses features vocals that are annoyingly poppy, like a sub-standard Prince, but with some substantial instrumental licks. Unc is the oddest track, part Balkan horns, part tango undertow, reminiscent of the Gotan Project. Once again, Shorty steps forward for a fluttering trumpet solo. Ledisi sings the swaying slowie Then There Was You, topped by another Shorty solo as she takes the song higher and higher.