Monday, October 10, 2011

The Cynic's Musical Side: For True

If you haven't heard Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews' 2010 debut album Backatown, please stop reading this review right now, go to your nearest music store, and buy that CD. Hell, buy it twice if you feel like it.

I know what you're saying: "Aidan, how can you like something this much? I'm surprised you like anything at all." First of all, screw you; I like plenty of things. Secondly, you obviously don't understand what Backatown is: namely the first time since the acid jazz movement of the early '90s that somebody has come along to completely turned jazz on it's ear. Also, bear in mind that after approximately a century of almost nonstop innovation, it's pretty goddamn hard to turn jazz on it's ear nowadays. I mean think about it: Satchmo brought us dixieland, Benny Goodman brought us swing, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie brought us bebop, Miles Davis brought us both cool jazz and fusion (and was on the ground floor of the modal and hard bop movements as well), Ornette Coleman brought us whatever the fuck The Shape of Jazz to Come was, and Herbie Hancock brought us damn near everything. There are more subgenres of jazz than any other genre of music on the face of the earth (yes, even classical). So many in fact, that it's become impossible to define what exactly jazz is. So how the hell do you turnthat on it's ear in this day and age?

Well, just listen to it. Backatown was two things: completely batshit insane, and utterly, utterly brilliant. Andrews, a New Orleans-bred musical prodigy (is there any other kind of musician in New Orleans?) created a monster of a sound, fusing jazz, soul, funk, metal, hip hop, and putting it all in a New Orleans brass band setting (plus a kick ass rythm section). It was so unlike anything else in the genre that he had to create a new subgenre: Supafunkrock, which I admit sounds significantly less awesome coming from a nerdy white guy from Oregon. The result was possibly the funkiest album in decades, complete with thundering drums, screaming judgement-day horns, and distorted guitars. Andrews gave us what has eluded fusion musicians since the late 1960s: a jazz album for the rock crowd that doesn't sell out the audience that made it possible in the first place. Andrews and his band Oleans Avenue have a sound that could make it big in any setting. In short, Backatown is a very, very hard act to follow. So when I heard that Trombone Shorty was going to release a new album, there was one thing going through my head:

Please, please, please let this album be good.

So how does For True hold up against Andrews' mind-blowing debut? The horns aren't as loud, but the funk is still strong as ever. The sound is a little more mainstream than Backatown, which wasn't completely necessary, but that by no means Trombone Shorty's sold out. Not by a long shot. Instead, it just feels like a musician trying to refine his sound. Backatown was a trial by fire, an all-or-nothing showcase of exactly what Orleans Avenue was capable of. For True is more focused- Andrews' isn't trying to prove anything here; he and his band are finding their groove. However, while he smoothed out the debut album's unevenness, it also removes some of the gritty, unhinged fun of his first album.For True is a great album, sure, but Backatown was a fucking party.

That isn't any death sentence, though. In the end, For True isn't as good as its predecessor, but that's nothing to be ashamed of. Louis Armstrong couldn't play as fast as Dizzy Gillespie, but they're both great trumpeters. The two albums are very different in tone, even if they're in the same style:Backatown felt like the world's greatest jam session, while For True is much more calculated. It will probably sell better. I still prefer Andrews' first album, but For True is still great, funky fun. Bring on album number three. Grade: B+

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