Backatown, the latest release from New Orleans brass prodigy Trombone Shorty (aka Troy Andrews,) takes the explosive musical milieu of New Orleans to a new level, bringing New Orleans jazz, funk and whatever else goes on down there into a sound he calls “supaphunkrock.” The result is an intensely funky party album that manages to be both immensely entertaining and musically fascinating.
If the tracks on this record don’t make your body move, there’s something seriously wrong with you. The whole album oozes exuberant musical energy, from the opening track’s brass riffs (“Hurricane Season”) through the heavy metal guitar and drum beat of the final number, “The Cure.”
Although it features a spate of impressive musical guests including Lenny Kravitz and Allen Toussaint, Backatown is at its best when it features Andrews as a soloist, as on “Suburbia,” “Backatown” and “The Cure.” He rarely strays from his deeply blues-inflected melodic vocabulary, but he never has to. As with funk trombone godfather Fred Wesley, the groove speaks for itself. Unlike Wesley, though, he projects one of the ballsiest trombone sounds I have heard on record, yet he manages to convey it with a clear, focused tone.
Like A Vacant Lot, many jazz fans wouldn’t classify this music as jazz. Even my girlfriend was very surprised to hear this coming through my living room speakers (even better, she dug it!) Produced by Galactic funkateer Ben Ellman, the overall sound owes much more to R&B and funk than jazz. But between Andrews’s instrumental virtuosity, the interlocking instrumental riffs, improvised solos and the propulsive rhythmic drive throughout, there’s a lot here for a jazz fan to like.