FORT WORTH The band was no surprise, but the crowd was.
New Orleans soul-funk masters Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue opened the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s 23rd annual Concerts in the Garden series at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on Friday in grand fashion. The headliner and his five-piece band wowed the audience with their brassy mix of about every musical form ever developed in the American South (blues, rock, soul, funk, you name it), all delivered with a Crescent City accent so thick that you could smell the chicory in it.
Trombone Shorty (nee Troy Andrews) is something of a pulmonary wonder on stage. He plays his namesake instrument and the trumpet and provides vocals, sometimes doing all three on the same song. There should not be enough wind in the whole world for anybody to pull that off.
He did, however, get to sneak in a few gulps of air while his bandmates — Pete Murano (guitar), Dan Oestreicher (baritone sax) and Tim McFatter (tenor sax), Mike Ballard (bass) and Joey Peebles (drums) — were working. Most of the tunes on Friday’s setlist were lengthy jams that offered plenty of chances for the players to strut their stuff with long solos.
Guitarist Murano was especially impressive because, in addition to contributing a number of highly engaging leads, he created a consistently large sound that allowed him to hold his own with all the brass on stage.
The rhythm section of Ballard and Peebles laid down wicked grooves all night along that Andrews rode like a strong current. And McFatter and Oestreicher played well in tandem, with the former offering some especially nice solos, while the latter’s deep throated horn came through like a second bass.
But at the front of it all was Andrews, who first developed a national profile by playing a recurring role on the HBO series, Treme. Seeing him in concert makes it clear what is so special about his trombone playing. When he plays that instrument, he does so with the quickness and agility of a good trumpeter. That gift, which is something few other trombonists can boast of having, was vividly apparent as he moved from one piece of brass to the other on Friday.
By comparison, however, his vocals do not measure up. He is a great horn player, but just a good vocalist. But, again, given what he is doing on stage, it is a wonder he is able to sing at all.
And while he proved himself to be an energetic band leader who worked the crowd well, he was not much on providing titles for the band’s numbers. He identified exactly none of them. I can tell you, however, that one of the highlights was a dynamite, instrumental cover of the Guess Who’s classic, American Woman. But it was probably more directly inspired by the much later (and absolutely super) version by Lenny Kravitz, with whom Andrews has worked.
All of that was no shock to anyone who had seen this act before.
But what was a bit stunning Friday was the approximately 2,100 patrons who turned up for the show. Based on prior seasons, that is great crowd for this type of concert. So it bodes well for the future concerts in the series that feature artists and concepts that are proven winners from the past.