Released this week, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews’ latest album contains 10 tight new tracks that, concise as they consistently are, are packed with funk, rock, soul and Andrews' New Orleans-schooled horns.
Andrews and his band, Orleans Avenue, recorded the sonically detailed “Say That To Say This” in Los Angeles with himself and Raphael Saadiq as co-producers. Former Tony! Toni! Tone! singer Saadiq’s previous production credits include Macy Gray, TLC, D’Angelo and the Roots.
Funk-rock title song “Say That To Say This” marches forth on bold horn and electric guitar riffs. “Fire and Brimstone,” which the group performed Wednesday on "The Tonight Show," reflects Andrews’ brass-band heritage and the influence of his rock-star mentor, Lenny Kravitz.
More on the funkier side, “You And I (Outta This Place)” includes social commentary of the kind heard from such earlier New Orleans acts as the Neville Brothers, the Meters and Allen Toussaint. “You and I will no longer be denied,” Andrews pledges. “Put your fist up in the clouds, because they can never stop us now.”
The widely touring Andrews goes home to New Orleans for the Meters-based guitar, bass and syncopation of “Get the Picture.” Speaking of the Meters, the young New Orleans music star orchestrated a Meters reunion in the studio for his new album’s remake of the funk masters' 1977 song, “Be My Lady.” The latter song’s jazzy-R&B-pop style and the Burt Bacharach-Hal David sound of “Sunrise” reveal non-rock and -funk sides of Andrews.
Showcasing the continuing evolution of Andrews and Orleans Avenue, “Say That To Say This” concludes with a return to the streets of New Orleans for “Shortyville,” a glorious brass band jam.
Janelle Monáe’s performance at the 2013 Essence Festival misfired. Singing Prince and Jackson 5 songs and Charlie Chaplin’s ballad, “Smile,” and dancing like James Brown, she looked sharp in her signature pompadour and black-and-white ensemble of shirt, slacks and suspenders, but never won the Essence crowd.
Maybe in a last-ditch effort to save her Essence set, Monáe left the stage for a foray into the audience on the Superdome floor. The results looked more desperate than victorious.
The recording studio may be Monáe’s real forté. She creates concept albums, seemingly with a cast of hundreds. Because Mon e is obviously an enthusiastic follower of pop music, art and culture from decades past, she may have little interest in staging conventional R&B shows.
“The Electric Lady,” a 19-track opus bathed in strings, horns and intricate layers of backup vocals, features guests Prince, Miguel, Erykah Badu, Solange Knowles and new jazz star Esperanza Spalding. Monáe references Ennio Marricone’s spaghetti western movie scores, John Barry’s James Bond music, disco, reggae, Bo Diddley and British post-punk band Bow Wow Wow. Monáe may need at least two hours on stage, one with specially designed sets, and rehearsals of the kind a Broadway musical gets to really show people what she’s got. She’s an eclectic songwriter; she sings in a high, lovely voice (heard in “Victory” and the Miguel-featuring “Primetime”); and she can groove (“Ghetto Woman” and the Badu-featuring “Q.U.E.E.N.”).
In a world of songs, Monáe stakes her album-artist’s ground.
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