Two Nights, Three Bands

This week good things came in threes. I was lucky to attend concerts by three fantastic bands: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, and Pink Martini with China Forbes.

The trombone player in me was thrilled that each band featured a trombonist playing his heart out!

Seeing three bands in as many days offered an unusual opportunity to notice how the different character of each band made them shine.

Our first evening we saw Trombone Shorty raise the audience to their feet with New Orleans-influenced, jazzy, brassy, hip-hop/funk.

Trombone Shorty’s live performance was all about dance and improv. From the first honk of the bari and tenor saxes, the musicians on stage started to dance, and never stopped. I spent their whole set on my feet, clapping and bopping in my best attempt at close quarters dancing. Trombone Shorty, himself, was an awesome performer, bursting with energy and raw joy. The Orleans Avenue band matched his energy. Each member’s improvisational performances felt celebratory and unique. Long, interactive jams created a live experience that carried the audience far beyond anything heard on recording.

Next, the Alabama band, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, followed Trombone Shorty. They mixed funk with soul and took the night in a whole new direction.

Watching the roadies precisely cover, tape, and prepare the stage was a heads-up that this band knew how to orchestrate their performance. I couldn’t believe how tight the band was live. Every note and gesture had been choreographed and polished to perfection. The band programmed their set with great care, building the energy to a boil, and letting it simmer back down.  The audience became absorbed in their retro grooves and Paul Janeway’s stunning vocals.

Two days later we treated ourselves to an evening of Pink Martini. The size and enthusiasm of the crowd at the gates surprised us. We’ve loved the band since our days living in Italy, but had no idea Pink Martini was so popular in the U.S.

Pink Martini’s stage presence is exactly like their music: warm, encouraging, heart-felt, and with just the right touch of humor. Part of Pink Martini’s flair is getting excited about writing songs in different languages and cultural styles. Pink Martini brought audience participation to a whole new level, inviting Arabic, Turkish, and French audience members to jump up on stage and perform music that celebrated their native cultures.

China Forbes’ controlled vocal virtuosity has nothing left to prove. She gracefully stepped back from the spotlight time and again to feature fellow band members, which added so much texture and interest to the performance. To my delight, Robert Taylor’s Bolero trombone solo opened the concert. The most warmly tender, heart-rending performance of the whole concert came from conga percussionist, Miguel Bernal, singing “Yo Te Quiero Siempre.”

Joy, precision, and warm-heartedness. Lots of different emotions packed into two concerts. And two concerts is quite a lot in the space of three days! But these bands will be playing in my head, and on my home speakers, for months to come.

New Heart, Only a Heartbeat Away

During my teen years, when kids form deep attachments to their favorite bands, I was forming deep attachments to classical orchestral music. I bought every album I could find by my favorite trombone soloist. I told high school friends that, if I had to get married someday, it would be to trombonist, Christian Lindberg!

It wasn’t until I met the man I would actually marry, that I began to explore the world of music beyond the trombone. A critical step in my non-classical education was a trip to the music store. I trailed my future husband around the store, at a total loss what to pick. The selection of my first ever pop album came down to a choice between his suggestion of two artists: David Bowie, or Sheryl Crow.

I didn’t know much about either artist. My handsome guide was a Bowie fan, but I had seen the video to Sheryl Crow’s Everyday is a Winding Road, and really liked it. My hand reached out for the Sheryl Crow album, and the rest is history. Sheryl Crow went on to become the soundtrack to my grown-up life. If I look through my iTunes library, her albums C’mon C’mon and Wildflower have more tracks hearted on them than not.

This weekend, for the first time ever, I got to hear Sheryl Crow perform live, on the tour for her brand new album, Be Myself. She walked on stage playing that very first song I’d heard and liked, Everyday is a Winding Road.

The great thing about an album is that you can listen to it anytime: as a celebration, while you dry your tears, or just dancing around the house dusting. But live performance brings a whole new dimension to the music you love. I learned that the track Long Way Back was the later-in-life companion to Everyday is a Winding Road. Knowing that, I heard the music and lyrics in a whole new way. Every musician on stage was such a fantastic live performer. An awesome onstage dual guitar jam at the concert gave me a new favorite song: Heartbeat Away.

When I got home I couldn’t wait to heart the track in iTunes. I couldn’t ask for anything more from a live concert than to come home with a new favorite song, and a more personal and visceral connection music I already loved.


Days of Future Passed

Not only is 2017 the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it’s the 50th anniversary of Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues. The Moody Blues is on tour to celebrate the anniversary, and I was so excited when my husband got us great last minute seats to see them perform!

Coming from a classical music background, I hear Days of Future Passed as a luscious orchestral tone poem. I wasn’t sure what kind of experience I’d have with the band playing live to a recorded orchestra.

The combination of hearing the band play live, and watching the graphics they chose to display on the big screen behind them, gave me a whole new understanding of several songs on the album. When “Evening” played, I saw images of commuters on a busy street. As the commuters navigated the crowds, the two percussionists on stage drummed out a military march. I suddenly had a whole new perspective on the track, I could hear all the good people of the world marching from the daily grind at the office toward home. Next, “Twilight Time (Evening)” struck me as far more psychedelic than it ever had before. I also loved that the band included a live flute player, who drew together the themes from the different parts of the day. And I experienced how fully the vocal drives the beauty and longing of “Nights in White Satin.”

2017 has been the year I really delve into learning more about 60’s pop and rock, and the more I learn about music of that time, the more I love it. Turns out I couldn’t have picked a better year to be enthused about the great albums from this era!