At encore time on Sunday at The Egg, Trombone Shorty and his five-man Orleans Avenue band all jumped on Joey Peebles’ drum riser and played his set together. But through the whole show, they played like one big drummer.
Imagine a giant beignet: crunchy, sweet and irresistibly New Orleans. That was the music that Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews deep-fried for a sold-out crowd that spent much of the 90-minute set on its feet. Trumpet over his head in one hand, trombone high in the other, he came out to take over the band in mid-groove, playing trombone in this wordless opener but switching to trumpet for the Guess Who’s “American Woman” (which he likely learned while touring in Lenny Kravitz’s band) and sharing solo space with tenor sax-man Tim McFatter and guitarist Pete Murano. Shorty played both trumpet and ’bone in “Mrs. Orleans,” going all staccato, like a trumpet while playing trombone.
There was nothing wrong with Shorty’s originals, and he sampled all three albums on Sunday, funking up everything or jazzing it all hot. But he seemed to relish lighting up the covers: If the originals showcased his ingenuity, the covers celebrated his heritage.
After a blitz through a funk jam from his “Backatown” (debut) album and a slow-drag blues that launched from Murano’s guitar and climaxed in a rotary breathing fireworks display of unbroken energy and inspiration from Shorty on trombone, they spun back the calendar with, of all things. “The Sunny Side of the Street.” A jazzy, naked guitar solo intro’ed, then it was all in for the band, Shorty playing trumpet, then singing in a highly rhythmic fashion that recalled Louis Armstrong. “Satchmo” also guided Shorty’s trumpet solo, holding the last notes of each phrase, speeding or slowing the tempo but never leaving the groove and drawing in the saxes (McFadden on tenor, and Dan Oestriecher booming on baritone).
A fat, Latin groove from “For True” followed by the soul-vocal workout “The Craziest Thing” from the same album set up the ageless “St. James Infirmary,” Shorty singing strong and drawing the crowd into a Cab Calloway “Hi-dee hi-dee hi-dee hi-dee hi” chorus.
In Ray Charles’ classic “I Got a Woman,” Shorty skat-sang alongside and with bassist Mike Ballard, urged everybody (unnecessarily!) to “make it funky” then dance-moved like James Brown, then Michael Jackson in a moonwalk. He led the band offstage to big audience thunder, then came back with, of course, “If You Go to New Orleans” and the Mardi Gras Indian chant “Let’s Go Get ‘Em.”
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue took the audience to New Orleans, rocking the funk, honoring where they came from and showing off both spectacular individual skills and locking grooves as deep as the Gulf. A player and singer of singular skill, Shorty showed off charisma and energizing joy that few showmen can match — a tremendous and tremendously engaging performance.