Wednesday at the Square is back! From 5-7:30pm through June 15th every Wednesday, our Champion Saints as well as many other generous sponsors, throw a free concert in Lafayette Square benefitting the Young Leadership Council. This is easily one of my favorite of the city’s many free offerings. I missed the kick-off last week with the Radiators, but wild horses couldn’t have kept me from the thrill of the pairing of the Soul Rebels and Trombone Shorty.
The Square was packed and things have been arranged differently this season so that chairs cannot be set up in the front 30 feet or so giving us ample room for dancing. They’ve also planted an Abita beer table closer to the stage so we don’t have to wander from the music to get refreshed. So far, I enjoy both changes. And, as always, all proceeds from beer and (awesome) food sales go to benefit the YLC so it’s easy to feel good buying $4 beers and $3-$7 plates of food.
The Soul Rebels are a 7 piece brass band bringing new hip hop and reggae sounds while honoring the New Orleans brass tradition. Originators, snare drummer, Lumar LeBlanc, and bass drummer, Derrick Moss, played together in Dejean’s Young Olympia Brass Band. Together, they found several graduates of Southern university music programs and based their early work on their marching band influences from high school (LeBlanc attended St. Augustine and Moss went to McMain, both school marching bands I repeatedly enjoyed during this year’s Mardi Gras). They started out as so many bands here do – on the street, but now play in the neighborhood of 250 shows per year.
After touring the world and playing their standards and originals with everyone from the Counting Crows to Green Day, they released a live album in 2009 entitled, No Place Like Home. Another album is due out in August and we were treated to several of the upcoming songs. They throw a heck of a party, engaging the audience and forcing them on their feet to join their “Rebelution.”
After some announcements and Frisbees thrown by lovely Saintsations, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Orleans Avenue took the stage. A third generation musician, he has been playing trombone since he was 3 and became a bandleader at 6. Andrews met his bassist Mike Ballard and drummer, Joey Peebles, at Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp and they continued to play together while attending New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), a prestigious and exclusive arts school. Shorty played with percussionist, Dwayne Williams, in several brass bands around town. Guitarist, Pete Murano, tenor saxophonist, Tim McFatter, and baritone sax, Dan Oestreicher, who apprenticed with Shorty in the N. O. Jazz Orchestra, rounded out the group later.
Andrews went on the road with Lenny Kravitz so it should come as no surprise that Kravitz came to see the show as did Kermit Ruffins, who will be next up at Lafayette Square, and often-seen-around-town Kid Rock along with his friend, Sidney Torres of SDT. I was so busy enjoying the show and snapping photos that I didn’t realize until I got home that my photos are like a “Where’s Waldo” of Kid Rock background shots.
He’s as fun to look at as he is to listen too so if you haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying Trombone Shorty’s music, perhaps you’ve enjoyed him playing himself on HBO’s Treme. He and Orleans Avenue’s funky, hip hop brass band sound pushed the 2010 release of his album, Backatown, to a number 1 debut on Billboard Magazine’s Contemporary Jazz Chart. The album stayed on top for 9 weeks.
The concert was amazing, defined by high energy and showmanship while grounded in trained and disciplined talent. A big WOW that stayed with me long after the show ended. I may be prone to hyperbole, but I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I’ve NEVER seen anyone hold any note of any kind on any instrument longer than Trombone Shorty’s 4-5 minute yogic-breathing single note on the trumpet during the 1930 standard “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” We all marveled as he swished breath around his cheeks like mouthwash. It was beyond amazing, a testament to his stamina and training. WOW.
Loved seeing the free bike parking and valet as I was leaving. Like so many, I walked to the Square, but most prefer bicycling and I continue to be thrilled at how easy it is to get around NOLA without a car
And a special Thank You to my dad and stepmom for surprising me with a new camera. Hope you enjoy the improved images as much as I do.