Trombone Shorty Sells Out The Big Room


Ok, I’ll be blunt: If you’re lucky enough to have tickets to Trombone Shorty’s upcoming Sierra Nevada Big Room show, you’re going to have a good time, but if you go away not liking what you’ve seen and heard, then you probably just don’t like music.

I first saw the guy with Orleans Avenue, his knock-down-drag-out band of players, about four years ago on a hot summer day up in Quincy. I knew that he was featured on Treme, the HBO series about music and New Orleans, but I’d never heard a lick he played. That made my first time hearing him one of those great experiences in which there are no expectations and you’re hearing a performer “fresh.” Shorty and the band had that outdoor festival crowd completely under their spell, and Shorty’s playing was firmly in the groove, solid with the great jazz tradition from whence it comes. He’s been playing the trombone since his arms were too short to fully extend the slide valve (hence the nickname), and he now bears the torch lit by Kid Ory and carried since by guys like Slide Hampton and J.J. Johnson. Shorty and his crew honor the roots of the music—that New Orleans gumbo of jazz and blues—but they embellish the source with a full measure of funk. Taken together, it’s good for what might ail ya, and it restoreth the soul.

This is music that wants you to move and to groove. As I wrote in a piece following that Quincy performance: “Given the opportunity, Trombone Shorty and his cohorts could probably get a nun, a rabbi, and an imam boogeying together. The band is as tight as a rubber band on a Sunday paper, sounding like a mix of The Jazz Crusaders, Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, and their own damn selves.”

Not long after that, I spoke with Shorty (née Troy Andrews) shortly before he was to appear for the first time at the Sierra Nevada Big Room. He was touring up in Michigan, and I got him on the phone as he and the band were about to board a ferry that would take them to their next gig. I asked him then about the rigors of the road, and he acknowledged that it could get wearying, but he added: “I’m trying to put smiles on people’s faces. If I didn’t play for two or three weeks, I’d start feeling weird.”

Putting smiles on people’s faces—not to mention getting them out onto the dance floor—is precisely what Shorty and his band do.

Since that interview, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue have cut a recently released new album (Say That to Say This), played the White House, collaborated with some of the biggest current names in music, and won a slew of recognitions and awards. They’ve also been spending lots of time on the tour that includes their upcoming stop here in Chico. All that building fame surely explains why this show sold out almost instantly, and those who are about to experience this band for the first time are in for a great evening.