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. ┬áThe 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.