Ottawa Jazz Festival 2009: Days 1-3, June 25-27, 2009
Saturday nights at Confederation Park are usually reserved for dance parties, and the double bill of New Orleans' Trombone Shorty and the legendary Al Green couldn't have been a better pairing for a capacity crowd that approached the ten thousand mark. Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews whose nickname came from when he first began playing trombone as a child and the instrument was taller than he wasis quickly growing into a fixture on the New Orleans scene, playing with artists including Kermit Ruffins, Donald Harrison, Ellis Marsalis and Jason Marsalis, and Irvin Mayfield.
Left to his own devices, however, Trombone Shorty's recent music leans hard on New Orleans funk with a rock edge, delivering an instrumental version of The Guess Who hit "American Woman" early in the set, driven by guitarist Pete "Freaky Pete" Murano and encouraging people to hit the dance section of the park. Shorty and Orleans AvenueMurano, bassist Michael "bass" Ballard, drummer Joey "In and Out" Peebles, percussionist Dwayne "Big D" Williams, baritone saxophonist Dan Oestreicher and tenor saxophonist Clarence "Trickséy" Slaughtermay have been a little less polished, a little less than perfectly tight, but the excitement was infectious and not only was Trombone Shorty a charismatic front man, but his band mates were equally magnetic, especially Murano and the two saxophonists, who delivered some fine solos throughout the set.
Shorty wasn't just a good trombonist; he had a fine, soulful voice and even picked up trumpet for a few tunes. His tribute to Michael Jacksona medley of the more relaxed "Rock With You" and more up-tempo and booty shaking "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"was clearly thrown together in soundcheck, but the audience didn't care. And while the emphasis was on the funk, Trombone Shorty knows his history, delivering a surprisingly tender version of Louis Armstrong's classic, "What a Wonderful World."
Any shortcomings the group may have had in terms of tightness were more than made up for in energy and intent. Shorty had the crowd in the palm of his hand, encouraging plenty of audience participation and not just filling the dance area, but getting the entire crowd on its feet early in the set, singing along, waving their arms and clapping on command. A great time was truly had by all, and if his show was any indication of how he's bringing it each and every night, there's little doubt that a lot more will be heard from Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, and very soon.
Trombone Shorty may have warmed up the capacity audience, but like the night before with S.M.V., it was clear they were in the park for Al Green, and the legendary soul/R&B singersurprisingly only 63 years old, having started out very young, with his first album released at the age of 19didn't disappoint. He may be a senior, but after a rocking fanfare by his crack band, Green emerged with surprising verve and didn't let up until the 90-minute set was over, an animated performer who captivated the crowd from the moment he took the stage. Throwing roses into the crowd and holding onto a few himself for much of the show, it was a dancing love fest, with a crowd that seemed to know every hit he sangand he delivered a seemingly endless stream of them, though he did play some material from his latest album, Lay It Down (Blue Note, 2008).
With a career as long as Green's, the challenge of making sure that everyone in the audience goes home hearing the song they came for is an almost insurmountable challenge, but in addition to full-length versions of early hits like "My Girl," the singerwhose range doesn't appear to have been affected the least by the passing of time, his seductive falsetto reaching nearly stratospheric notes throughout the set delivered a medley that was more like sound bites, though the brevity of the material didn't matter to the crowd. On their feet for the entire set, the audience sang along, clapped along, responded to every cue from Green, and just flat out had a wail of a time.
Green's groupa large ensemble with horns, two keyboardists, two guitarists, bass, drums, percussion, singers and even two male dancerswas well-oiled, not a note out of place, with a rhythm section that kept the engine running at optimum efficiency. Both guitarists got the chance to solo, including some Hendrix references as one launched into playing with his teeth. The crowd went wild.
But at the end of the day it was all about supporting Green, and support Green they did. 90 minutes and countless hits later with no encore, the group wrapped up soon after Green left the stage and began tearing down just as quickly after the applause died down. Clearly this is a group on a mission and a grueling schedule, but for those 90 minutes, the rigors of the road didn't seem to matter. All that counted was assuring the delivery of an outstanding performance by a true legend that surely left everyone in the audience sated...and happy.
Coming up on days 4-6 of the Ottawa International Jazz Festival: Amina Claudine Meyers, Gary Burton Quartet Revisited with Pat Metheny, John Roney and the Silverbirch String Quartet, Julian Lage Group, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Enrico Rava/Stefano Bollani Duo, Andy Milne/Benoit Delbecq Duo and Sylvain Kap Quartet.
Days 1-3 | Days 4-6