Trombone Shorty Hits The Right Notes On Blue Note Debut ‘Parking Lot Symphony’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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The fourth studio album from wonder trombone/trumpet player Troy Andrews aka Trombone Shorty is also his first for the iconic Blue Note label. Rather than go the classic jazz route on Parking Lot Symphony Andrews melds all of the styles (blues, funk, hip-hop, R&B, pop) that he excels at it into a gumbo that honors the past and points to the future of New Orleans music.  

He has produced his strongest studio effort to date with the help of his stellar long time supporting band Orleans Avenue, guest musicians, and producer Chris Seefried (Fitz and the Tantrums, Andra Day). Andrews has always been a dynamite instrumentalist but now having partnered with the likes of Seefried, Aloe Blacc, Ethan Gruska and Alex Ebert to co-write a few solid songs (as well as some killer covers) he has enhanced the fantastic musical backgrounds the players create.

Bookend by the “Laveau Dirge’s” Shorty’s New Orleans love is everywhere; Trombone Shorty is the brightest, most vibrant voice from a city full of them. “No Good Time” is a darkly humorous ode to the wet (in many ways) Crescent City and “Dirty Water” infuses New Orleans with laid back pop via groovy beats, a slinky trumpet, and Shorty’s best vocal effort. “Familiar” is a gorgeously sexy get down jam that unfortunately suffers from trite lyrics.

While clearly working on his songwriting craft, Andrews and company continue to shine brightest with their instrumentals. “Like A Dog” punches out aggressive brass lines, “Fanfare” is effortlessly cool with great bass work and “Tripped Out Slim” rates as one of the best of his career with its wah-wah guitars, high-powered brass and that funky second line feel.

For cover tracks, Shorty stuck close to his home and heart with The Meters “It Ain’t No Use” expertly featuring original Meters member Leo Nocentelli on acoustic guitar, but also weighing things down with an overblown female choir. A better revamp is the second Shorty tribute to the late great Allen Toussaint on a studio effort, the funk-filled “Here Come The Girls” (he previously covered “On Your Way Down” for Backatown) as Ivan Neville joins on piano, proving to be a highlight of the album.  

Andrews is still working on becoming a smooth R&B crooner with “Familiar” lyrically disappointing while “No Good Time” has all the makings of a classic (insightful lyrics and crisp instrumentation) but while Shorty’s horns hit the mark his vocals fall just short. The title track also hints at more grandiose mid-70’s Curtis Mayfield style via strings and overproduction, but never achieves those heights. If this artist could latch onto one hit, his future is wide open.

However, as it stands Parking Lot Symphony is being released to coincide with the biggest music festival in Andrew’s hometown of New Orleans and for a few years now he has had the honor of closing out the Jazz and Heritage Festival from the main stage. With Parking Lot Symphony, Trombone Shorty has made the leap to a headliner, not just at home, but anywhere his muse takes him. Trombone Shorty is one of the brightest, most vibrant voices from a city full of them. 

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