Music News & Reviews

Trombone Shorty exults in Voodoo Threauxdown Tour: ‘People will get this whole gumbo of New Orleans music!’

Trombone Shorty has not yet devised a way to take his concert audiences to New Orleans, at least not literally.

So, he's doing the next best thing by bringing New Orleans to audiences nationwide with his Voodoo Threauxdown Tour 2022, which features several dozen musicians in five bands, along with three guest solo artists. Each is a vibrant mainstay of the Big Easy's famously rich and varied music scene.

"I tour a lot and miss home a lot," said Shorty, whose real name is Troy Andrews. "The Threauxdown gives me the chance to be around my family and friends, and to present the great music of New Orleans from nearly every aspect."

This is the second edition of the tour, which debuted in 2018. This year's lineup includes Tank and The Bangas, former Neville Brothers' singer/percussionist Cyril Neville, the Soul Rebels Brass Band, bounce-music vocal standout Big Freedia, veteran rapper Juvenile and the band Dumpstaphunk, which features Ivan Neville and Meters' bass great George Porter Jr. Shorty and his genre-leaping 14-piece band, Orleans Avenue, headline.

Each of them has performed multiple times at the storied New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which was launched in 1970. The proudly eclectic event, which bounced back in April after a two-year COVID shutdown, has long been referred to as, simply, Jazz Fest by performers and attendees alike.

With Voodoo Threauxdown, Shorty has assembled a mini-Jazz Fest lineup for a coast-to-coast concert trek. By doing so, he is providing a zesty sonic gateway for concertgoers who may know little or nothing about Jazz Fest.

"I wanted to bring all of New Orleans with me to the world," Shorty said.

"As you say, a lot of people may not have been to Jazz Fest. But they know who we are and now they get to see some of the people who are my mentors, like Cyril Neville and Dumpstaphunk, and some of the more contemporary acts, like the Soul Rebels and Tank and The Bangas. People will get this whole gumbo of New Orleans music!"

Providing a gumbo of New Orleans music is also an apt job description for Shorty.

He was just 4 years old when he first performed at Jazz Fest, where he sat in with rock 'n' roll pioneer Bo Diddley in 1990. He began touring when he was 7 and joined the American musicians union at 10. Since 2013, Shorty and his band have held the coveted closing-day performance slot at Jazz Fest, following a four-decade run by the now-defunct Neville Brothers.

Jazzed at Jazz Fest

"Touring as much as I do, I'm not able to see a lot of local acts when I'm home in New Orleans," said Shorty, speaking during a recent tour break from his home in the city.

"Being at Jazz Fest is my chance to catch up on newer acts or to see an established band I haven't seen in years. I try to go everywhere I can at Jazz Fest, unless I get caught up in the food lines! When that happens, I hang in line with the fans and miss hearing some bands."

Shorty often sits in with other Jazz Fest artists, as befits a jack-of-all-trades musician who shines in almost any stylistic setting.

His many past collaborators range from Stevie Wonder, Janelle Monae, Ringo Starr and Foo Fighters to Wynton Marsalis, Lenny Kravitz, Dierks Bentley and fellow New Orleans music hero Jon Batiste. "We Are," Batiste's multiple Grammy-winning 2021 album, showcases Shorty as a performer and songwriter.

The 2022 Voodoo Threauxdown tour follows this year's release of "Lifted," Shorty's latest album for Blue Note Records. Filled with rhythmically propulsive music, it features such diverse guest artists as guitar slinger Gary Clark Jr., the New Breed Brass Band and Christian vocal star Lauren Daigle, who performed with Shorty at this year's edition of Jazz Fest in New Orleans.

Shorty sings and plays trombone, trumpet, organ, electric piano, synthesizer and percussion on the album. The cover photo of "Lifted" shows him at 4 — a plastic toy saxophone in hand — being held aloft by his mother, Lois, at a New Orleans street parade as a brass band passed by.

"We went to parades every weekend," recalled Shorty, whose mother died in November and was a cultural champion in their Treme neighborhood. "I remember the sound of the horns and being fascinated by some of the older musicians who were playing."

That street tradition is celebrated on "Lifted" with two songs in particular, "Miss Beautiful" and "Everybody in the World."

"The root of it is that street beat I grew up with," said Shorty, whose concerts often include his versions of James Brown's "Get Up Offa That Thing" and the 1938 Louis Armstrong classic, "When the Saints Go Marching In."

"James Brown and his band were incredible, and I was basically born hearing 'The Saints!' They are both part of our tradition. I'm not sure I'm a part of that tradition, yet. But I'm working toward that, so — when all is said and done — I hopefully will have had a positive impact on the growth of this music."

Who's who at Voodoo Threauxdown

Several dozen New Orleans musicians are performing as part of the nationwide tour headlined by Trombone Shorty and his band, Orleans Avenue. Here's a look at who's in the lineup.

Tank and The Bangas: The 2017 winners of NPR's prestigious Tiny Desk Contest, this Grammy-nominated band was formed in 2011. Led by singer Tarriona "Tank" Ball, the group blends elements of funk, hip-hop, spoken-word, gospel, jazz and rock to create songs that strive to entertain and enlighten. Ball is the winner of two National Poetry Slam championships, while she and her band earned a 2020 Best New Artist Grammy nomination.

George Porter Jr. & Dumpstaphunk: Bass great Porter is a co-founder of The Meters, the legendary New Orleans funk band that was formed in 1965. Equally inspired by Mardi Gras street chants, R&B, Latin music and more, The Meters recorded such indelible gems as "Cissy Strut," "Hey Pocky A-Way" and "Fire on the Bayou." Expect to hear all three when Porter pays tribute to the legacy of The Meters with Dumpstaphunk. The groove-happy band features former Bonnie Raitt and Keith Richards keyboardist/singer Ivan Neville, whose late uncle, Art Neville, co-founded The Meters.

Big Freedia: Is Beyoncé the most high-profile fan of New Orleans rapper Big Freedia? Very likely. Beyoncé's new single, "Break My Soul," features a sample of Freedia's 2014 song, "Explode," while Beyoncé's 2016 hit, "Formation," featured Freedia memorably intoning: "I did not come to play with you hoes/ I came to slay ..." The star of the 2013-17 Fuse reality series "Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce," Freedia is a proudly gay man born Freddie Ross. He has been hailed as the king and queen of bounce music, a uniquely New Orleans-flavored variation of hip-hop that features Mardi Gras Indian call-and-response chants — and lots of twerking.

Cyril Neville: Singer and percussionist Cyril Neville was a co-founder of New Orleans' most acclaimed homegrown band, The Neville Brothers. Equally notable as a band leader and a studio session musician, he has been featured on albums by such disparate artists as Willie Nelson, Toots & The Maytals, Bob Dylan, Ani DiFranco, Robbie Robertson, Jimmy Buffett, The Pimps of Joytime, Edie Brickell and most of the performers on this year's Voodoo Threauxdown Tour.

The Soul Rebels Brass Band: When it comes to eclecticism, this rollicking Big Easy brass band can match Cyril Neville — who gave the group its name. The Soul Rebels' collaborators have ranged from Katy Perry and Metallica to Macy Gray and Portugal. The Man. Featuring two drummers, two trumpeters, two trombonists, a saxophonist and the tuba-like sousaphone, this funk and hip-hop savvy group salutes and extends the brass band tradition with infectious verve.

Juvenile: Like fellow New Orleans-bred rappers Lil Wayne, Master P and $uicideboy$, Juvenile (real name: Terius Gray) has achieved success far beyond his hometown. The title of his ninth album, 2009's "Cocky and Confident," sums up the swagger of his lyric and vocal delivery. But Juvenile admirably displayed his social conscience last year when he turned his biggest hit, 2000's "Back That Thang Up," into "Vax That Thang Up," a spirited musical testimonial encouraging young Black Americans to obtain COVID-19 vaccinations.

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This story was originally published August 11, 2022 5:30 AM.

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