Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Parking Lot Symphony
Parking Lot Symphony is Trombone Shorty’s debut recording for the legendary Blue Note label. The label has been putting out records by jazz giants since 1939. Parking Lot Symphony fits into the Blue Note legacy not as a staid reminder of a storied tradition, but as a reminder that the great jazz masters of the past were popular musicians. People danced at concerts and put on the records at parties. With Orleans Avenue, Trombone Shorty (Troy Andrews) brings the party to the street.
Parking Lot Symphony shows off Andrews all-encompassing passion for what the Art Ensemble of Chicago called “Great Black Music, Ancient to Future.” The program starts off with an instrumental, “Leveau Dirge No. 1”, that name checks the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans and the trumpet prowess of Louis Armstrong. “It Ain’t No Use” shifts us to a grooving funk tune about the sometimes ambiguous nature of love. The tune talks about wanting to leave a relationship and not wanting to leave at the same time. It feels as fresh as your buddy’s latest Facebook post, but it ‘s actually a cover of a Meters tune.
The song “Parking Lot Symphony” is a slick pop song complete with sweet strings and hand claps. It’s squarely in the tradition of ’70s hit makers like Earth Wind and Fire. On the other hand, “Familiar” is a fun tune that plays with socially awkward situation of running into someone you think you know, but maybe don’t. “She says she don’t know me, that girl looks familiar.” It has spoken-sung vocals straight out of hip-hop paired with martial parade drums and huge riffing horns. The flow of the words is blocked by the jagged start and stop horn blasts that are a musical counterpart to the girls blocking the guy’s moves. The next tune, “No Good Time”,a slow bluesy ballad gets philosophical about romantic setbacks. Troy sings, “from now on I’m going to try to be wrong a little less,” and concludes that “nobody never learned nothing from no good times.”
Not to fear, “Here Come The Girls”, gives the dudes an anthem for their nights on the town. It’s an adoring ode to womankind set to a hard funk groove with a semi-rapped lyric. This Allen Toussaint penned tune is a show stopper in concert and a highlight of the album. The instrumentals are mostly high-energy workouts.
The album ends with “Laveau Dirge Finale” that takes the mournful lament and infuses it with hope. It’s a reflection of the traditional New Orleans funeral where the band plays solemn music on the way to the cemetery and joyous music on the parade home. Andrews is very aware of being a guardian of New Orleans musical heritage in the same way the Neville Brothers and Dr. John did before him. It’s a living tradition that repects the past while making room for the new. It’s the tradition of great black music, ancient to future.