Trombone Shorty and Ray Charles redefine jazz
Roots ‘N’ blues roundup:
A couple of choice picks to consider this weekend:
At Swallow Hill: Saturday: Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Once a mentor to a young Bob Dylan, Elliott has never hit mainstream fame but continues to win fans. His latest disc, A Stranger Here, won the 2010 Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Recording. See the singer and flat-picking guitar legend at the intimate venue on 71 E. Yale Ave., Denver. (Tickets are $24 in advance, $26 day of show, $2 discount for Swallow Hill members, www.swallowhillmusic.org.)
At the Boulder Outlook on Saturday: Delta Groove recording artist Johnny Long, a long-time bluesman who until just a few years ago had spent decades performing without a CD under his own name. At 800 28th Street in Boulder (just east of the highway on the frontage road.) (Tickets are $10, www.bouldershomeoftheblues.com)
At the Newman Center on the University of Denver campus: The Capitol Steps. The Denver Press Club is the bringing the singing political satirists – the group’s latest effort is dubbed “Obama Mia!” — to town 5 p.m., Sunday, May 16, at the June Swaner Gates Concert Hall. (Tickets are $45.50; VIP seats are $75 and include a post-performance reception with the cast plus a CD. Available at the Newman Center Box Office, www.du.edu/newmancenter or via Ticketmaster, www.ticketmaster.com)
From the music box:
TROMBONE SHORTY Backatown (Verve Forecast)
Here’s something bound to shake you out of your funk. Courtesy of the Crescent City comes 24-year-old singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Troy Andrews, aka Trombone Shorty. On Backatown, Shorty combines the horn-drenched sounds of New Orleans jazz with funk, rock, R&B and hip-hop.
Yeah, of course he plays the trombone, plus keyboards and percussion. And he also has a fine, soulful voice. You don’t hear that from the get-go, however. The disc kicks off with the blow-the-doors-off horn instrumental “Hurricane Season,” a buoyant slice of Mardi Gras music. Paying homage to a New Orleans icon, Shorty then offers a funked-up version of Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down,” (a classic also covered back in the ’70s by Little Feat.)
Backatown, produced by Galatic’s Ben Ellman, maintains that high-energy level throughout the 14 tracks, made up almost solely of original material. While fans of brass bands and contemporary jazz will like instrumentals like “Quiet as Kept,” “Neph,” and the title track, Shorty aims for the mainstream with the mid-tempo R&B tune “Something Beautiful,” which features his old boss Lenny Kravitz (on background vocals and lead guitar) and takes its cue from old-school Stevie Wonder and Prince.
Trombone Shorty is hard to categorize – and that’s a good thing. Catch him now before someone tries to homogenize him.
RAY CHARLES Genius + Soul = Jazz (Concord)
Concord Records continues its reissue campaign of the Ray Charles catalog with this double-disc expanded edition of his mostly instrumental jazz albums from the ’60s and ’70s. Although the collection takes its title from Charles’ 1961 classic, it also includes three additional albums: My Kind of Jazz, Jazz Number II and My Kind of Jazz Part 3.
The original Genius + Soul = Jazz album, produced by Creed Taylor, featured arrangements by Quincy Jones and Ralph Burns and members of the Count Basie Orchestra. The big, bold sound featured Charles on organ and a few vocal numbers (“I’ve Got News for You,” “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” and “One Mint Julep”). Charles was hot at the time, and the Impulse Records release hit No. 4 on the pop charts, with “One Mint Julip” becoming a Top 10 pop hit.
Just as he did with country music, Charles adapted jazz to suit his R&B and blues leanings. As the other three albums in the set underscore, he always brought his soulful groove to the forefront.