Red, Hot + New Orleans Rips the Roof off the Brooklyn Academy of Music

Trombone Shorty

Text by Augusta Palmer   

Photos by Jack Vartoogian   

It would have been easy enough to throw together a crowd-pleasing show of New Orleans favorites for the Red Hot + New Orleans benefit at the Brooklyn Academy of Music December 3rd and 4th, but as soon as the lights went down at the performance I attended on the 4th, it was clear that Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews had done much more than that. Strutting down BAM’s stodgy aisle came a kind of brass band dream team that included Trombone Shorty and his Orleans Avenue bandmates, New Orleans and Treme star trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, baritone saxophonist Roger Lewis of the Dirty Dozen Brass band, plus bass drummer Keith and his tuba-sousaphone playing brother Philip Frazier from the Rebirth Brass Band.    

Accompanied by guests that included grande dame of New Orleans Soul, Irma Thomas; piano legend Dr. John, Hammond organ-playing scion of New Orleans’ Neville dynasty, Ivan Neville, R & B crooner Ledisi, blue-eyed Cajun soulster Marc Broussard; plus rappers Partners-N-Crime and Mannie Fresh, Trombone Shorty created a musical evening that far exceeded my expectations.    



Early in the nearly three hour show, the tone for the night was set by a rollicking version of August Musarurwa’sSkokiaan“, with Trombone Shorty and the inimitable Kermit Ruffins was trading licks and singing “Happy, happy Africa!”  while Dwayne “Big D” Williams played the congas to anchor the rest of Orleans Avenue (Joey Peebles on drums, Don Oestricher on baritone sax, Tim McFatter on tenor sax, Micheal Ballard on bass, and Pete Murano on guitar) Together with the Frazier brothers and Roger Lewis they made a sound that was jazz that rocked.    

MANNIE FRESH (white shirt) performing with DJ WOP (left) & Ttrombone Shorty

As Robert Farris Thompson writes, “rock, jazz, blues, reggae, salsa, samba… much of the popular music of the world is informed by the flash of the spirit of a certain people specially armed with improvisatory drive and brilliance.” All of that music has African lineage like “Skokiaan,” but it sets down roots wherever it goes, and those roots run deep in New Orleans.    

Irma Thomas

Kermit Ruffin and Ledisi

Irma Thomas can still belt out a rocking version of her 1960 hit, “(You Can Have my Husband But) Don’t Mess with My Man,” and it’s a rare pleasure hear her do it live. Ledisi, Soulive guitarist Gavin Rossdale, and Trombone Shorty teamed up for a deliciously nasty version of “I Hear You Knocking”. Ledisi also treated audiences to an unexpectedly sweet duet with Kermit Ruffins on the predictable Armstrong tribute “It’s a Wonderful World.” Ivan Neville played the hell out of Meters classics and Dr. John delivered on the piano. Partners-N-Crime and Mannie Fresh had the barely ambulatory man in front of me on his feet, but it was Trombone Shorty who got him dancing in the aisles.    



 The flash of Trombone Shorty’s spirit seemed likely to set the staid opera house on fire at several times during the evening. He leapt from trombone to trumpet, taking breaks to sing for a while and even sitting down at the Hammondorgan for a few minutes. He was ably backed by his band, especially the indefatigable drummer Joey Peebles, who seems to, like Troy Andrews, have reserves of energy that defy the laws of physics. Before the inevitable show closer, “When The Saints Come Marching In,” Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue played an extended version of their current single, “Show Me Something Beautiful,” which I’m going to remember for a long time. I’m not sure why no YouTube clip or recorded version of the song I’ve heard contains anywhere near the magic he brought to the stage at BAM – what’s on record just don’t come anywhere close.   

Shorty Trombone and Orleans Avenue


If “Saints,” in this night’s iteration was little more than a football rallying cry given by a star-studded musical cast of thousands, it hardly mattered. Troy Andrews showed Brooklyn audiences just enough of the New Orleans songbook to leave us begging for more. And, as the audience slowly drained from the theater, the musicians were still audible backstage, playing for each other, playing for themselves.