Thursday, January 16, 2014

Trombone Shorty kicked ass at the Phoenix

Out and About

Best show of the year (of course, it's only been 2 weeks). Shorty uses every musical and stagecraft trick in the book. As I walked in to the cavernous Phoenix along a winding hallway Already was thinking I should have brought earplugs but it's just that the hallway ends right at the stage so when you got back in the room a bit, the volume was fine (not that you could have a conversation). The band was already going full tilt - as if it was the last tune of the night. stretching out the endings with wide arm gestures to the drummer, high on a riser in center stage, leading to s drum solo or a quick modulation into the next tune. The drum solo had saxes playing punches egging him on. He did the obligatory one-note solo but he held it longer than you've ever heard (more than 3 minutes by ny count) and by the time he released the tension, the audience exploded. Later he pulled out the classic Maynard Ferguson high note. At the end of one tune he would cue multiple hits from the band. Not the typical "two times" but over and over speeding up until everybody was blowing and strumming and hitting as fast as they could - ending abruptly with a sharp wave from Shorty. He has a tenor/bari sax section pumping away throughout - just the way I like it, then he had them stretch out by trading off on 8-bars "in the round". At one point, the horns were playing harmonies to Shorty's vocal. When it was time for (another) drum solo, the saxes punched it up. They also did some vocals, and I can't remember if they had tambourines but it reminds me that the next time I do a gig with the Blainettes I'm going to have them shaking the tams when they're not playing. When they did a wacked out version of St. James Infirmary, Josh G. leaned over and said "This must be the ballad of the set."

Before I got to Trombone Shorty I wanted to drop in at the inaugural event for the Blues Society's "Third Thursday" at the Dominion on Queen. As it turned out, there was another event happening the same night, "The Wee Folk Club" which I had previously attended when it was located in the back room at a bar in Dundas Square. And once again they were in the back room, but the Dominion has a very nice back room, but I don't think they use it enough. The back of the back room, where I was sitting had a bit of a dank odour. Banjomeister Chris Coole played a few tunes - including a great original called "A Hundred Dollars" which harkens back to the day to the days when a musician would never get less than a hundred a night and the gigs typically lasted more than one night - sometimes six! He was followed by a woman I had never heard, Anne Walker, but everyone in the room seemed to know her. A near operatic voice singing trad folk songs, or originals that sound like trad folk.

Host of the Wee Folk Club, Scottish trad singer Enoch Kent, did the intros and reminded the artists that they were expected to share some stories too. I had previously inquired about playing the series but was told you needed songs that told stories - now anyone who knows my music will tell you that my songs all have stories - it's all I write. But I think they meant stories that resemble Chaucer more than Randy Newman. Enoch took delight in announcing that the "jazz" group in the front room would be starting later because all the microphones were in the back room. In fact, there were other mikes in the front room, though the direct box wasn't working. Chris Antonik was the artist selected to kick off the first night and he had the Jesse Whiteley on piano. They played mostly blues standards, which I suppose is what most blues fans want to hear, but considering there was at least one important music journalist in the house, I would have tried to pull out a few originals.

Jesse told me off stage that he would be joining the 24th Street Wailers and I had to laugh because back when that band was starting out I put something in the blues newsletter suggesting that Jesse was leader of the band and I was promptly corrected that he was just a sideman.

I still had one more stop, my friend Dr Ric was playing at Monarch's Pub and I thought they would be playing till 1am but was told that they were going to finish at midnight so I slipped out of the Phoenix before Shorty finished so I could catch a couple of tunes from the Melony Jade Band (Melony was the lead singer of the Trailblazers back when I met Lily Sazz - that's a long time ago...). Melony looked quite stunning and the band was tight but once again, it was tunes that you've heard a million times and if you're going to cover a standard you need to give it your own twist, like the way Shorty totally deconstructed "St. James Infirmary," though I'm not sure I liked where he took it. Anyway that was 5 acts in one evening and it's not even Jazz Festival season! And I was home just a little after midnight.

I had thought to hang around the Phoenix and maybe have a chance to give one of my CDs to Shorty (or anybody from New Orleans, for that matter). New Folk Blues 2.0 kicks off with my "homage" to the Crescent City and one time I'd love to present it someone from that town. I've always kicked myself that I didn't speak to Allan Toussaint when he walked right by me after his performance at the Jazz Festival. I wanted to stop him and hand him the CD and tell him I wrote a song about his town called "Forgotten". But I was too shy then and I was too shy last night too. Maybe they'll hear it one way or the other - I ran into one of the interns from last year's jazz festival who mentioned she heard Brad Barker playing my CD on jazz FM last week. The music will make its way out there, one way or the other.