I love jazz. Always have. Some of the earliest records I remember loving were Benny Goodman’s legendary live set from Carnegie Hall and a cut-rate Duke Ellington compilation. Both shared space on a dusty wire rack below an old suitcase record player. Jazz players look to the past for inspiration, look inside themselves for something unique to say, sometimes look deep into the cosmos for that far-out sound that they can’t quite replicate. What they don’t do often enough is look at the world around them to build a new audience and connect to the culture outside of jazz die-hards. The jazz repertoire doesn’t expand often; a modern sax player is often riffing on the same Irving Berlin tunes that his great grandfather whistled.
That’s one reason I’m so glad Trombone Shorty is around. He’s got the chops to do long improvised jams, but he knows how to cut a single that might actually get airplay on the radio. Troy’s young and good-looking, possessed of a very respectable soul singer’s voice. He writes most of his own songs. And like most great artists, he draws influences in from all around him: long funk workouts, big rock jams, playful Dixieland improvisation, slick R&B. Backatown is flat-out one of my favorite jazz albums of the last decade. Trombone Shorty and his band are doing their part to make New Orleans musically relevant again; check out the video below, and if you dig it then try to catch a show when he’s near you.