Fifteen minutes into his 90-minute concert Friday night, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews flipped off his dark sunglasses, ditched his jacket and picked up his signature trombone.
A few quick bursts into the instrument and he took to the mic: “What you gonna do to me? / What I’m gonna do to you / I bet you’ll like it,” and the audience of 2,000 nearly filling Centennial Hall got on their feet and started dancing.
The energy was infectious; the harder Andrews and his Orleans Avenue band jammed, the more animated the audience became. They danced from their seats, clapped their hands high above their heads and applauded so hard their hands stung.
And every time we thought Andrews was slowing things down, he would suck us back in, switching from trombone to trumpet, or banging on a tambourine. He’d shine the spotlight on Orleans Avenue lead guitar Pete Murano, or invite tenor sax player BK Jackson to jam with Dan Oestreicher on baritone sax. Then he’d saunter over to the corner of the stage and dance alongside backup singers Chrishira Perrier and Tracci Lee.
For folks who haven’t paid close attention to the state of American jazz, Friday’s UA Presents show — one of the cornerstones of the 2019 HSL Properties Tucson Jazz Festival — was a perfect introduction.
Jazz today is much more than blaring horns and scorching guitars. It’s a amalgam of rock and blues and soul and R&B wrapped up as much in its past as its present.
Andrews tipped his horn to James Brown with a little hip twist and fancy footwork during a cover of Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down.” A few minutes later he, Jackson and Oestreicher air-strummed their horns as lead guitar Murano went on a scorching solo rant.
The brass trio launched into a extended jam that felt like a playground conversation of one-upsmanship; Oestreicher would throw out a phrase from one end of the stage and Jackson would answer from his spot center stage before throwing it back to Andrews for the exclamation point. After several minutes, one of them inserted a familiar melody that ignited another round of audience applause before they met in the middle of the stage for a thunderous finale.
One of the night’s highlights was when Andrews said he wanted to talk to us with his trumpet and performed an extended solo, accompanied by Murano’s guitar and Joey Peebles on drum.
Not surprisingly, Andrews and Orleans Avenue — made up mostly of New Orleans natives — ended the night with an audience sing-along of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
The only disappointment of the night was in Centennial Hall’s unbalanced sound system. Instruments and voices at times sounded slightly muffled and not nearly as clear as we would have liked.
The fifth annual Tucson Jazz Festival continues Sunday, Jan. 20, with Bobby McFerrin in a sold-out show at the Fox Tucson Theatre and Pink Martini with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra at Tucson Music Hall. The festival concludes Monday, Jan. 21, with the free downtown jazz fiesta beginning at 11 a.m.