At the close of a crisp autumn evening at the Courthouse Plaza on Sunday, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews held the long-elbowed instrument that earned him his nickname over his head like a sort of brass-fortified fist in the air.
It wasn't at all a symbol of defiance. The tireless carnival atmosphere he created through a one-hour, 45-minute set was too much fun for that. But the gesture was a token of the spirit and celebration that dominated this endlessly fun, free Spotlight Lexington performance.
Andrews hails from New Orleans and sports a musical bloodline that runs through Crescent City brass band tradition, funk and R&B. Sunday night, he was faithful not only to those inspirations but to the kind of inexhaustible party spirit that even the demon Hurricane Katrina couldn't whip out of the city.
Those wanting New Orleans funk were rewarded with the show-opening Orleans and Claiborne, a party piece full of bouncy brass figures that recalled the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's early '90s music save for guitar stutters and meaty bass grooves that were more in line with vintage Isaac Hayes records.
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The monster Mardi Gras tune, though, was Get Your Groove On, which was modeled more after the Rebirth Brass Band with irresistibly funky horn syncopation that bordered on ska. Andrews' soul falsetto singing streamlined the tune a bit. But that preceding groove was just nasty.
From there, the show opened out into an R&B glossary with Andrews touching on James Brown-style soul grinds, Marvin Gaye pop-soul (a cover of Let's Get It On, no less) and waves of soul inspirations.
But what sold it all, even above Andrews' thoroughly arresting instrumental work, was his stamina. The trombonist/trumpeter was an involving, commanding and immensely audience-friendly frontman. Throw that kind of powerhouse spunk in with the drive of a Shorty original like Hurricane Season, and you had the kind of show that helped all of downtown put on its finest party face.