REVIEW: Trombone Shorty lights up Terminal 5 with big brass sound

Trombone Shorty — Photo courtesy of 525 Worldwide Music
Trombone Shorty — Photo courtesy of 525 Worldwide Music

NEW YORK — Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, who have reinvented the many iconic sounds of New Orleans, tore into a nearly two-hour set at New York’s Terminal 5 Wednesday, Dec. 10. With the amps turned up (extremely up) and the crowd jazzed from the opening set by the Soul Rebels, Shorty and his five-person backing band coupled their rocked-out renditions with expert showmanship. No one makes music like this, and the adjective unique is well-earned.

When playing, Shorty likes to show off his obvious skills, not only as a trombonist, but also as a trumpeter, singer, dancer and crowd cheerleader. He bounces around the stage and ensures the audience members are having a good, solid time. From the looks of the packed house, it appeared his mission was a success.

Each song bled easily into the next with no time for a pause. This was a set that began at 9:15 p.m. and ended a minute before 11 p.m. It was wall-to-wall amplified sound. Some of the most memorable parts came from Shorty’s landmark album, “Backatown.” These songs are starting to become NOLA classics, both the instrumental takes and the lyrical passages.

As Shorty sings, he often moves his body to the beats of Orleans Avenue. The energy seems to be infectious, often with the saxophonists, guitarists and drummer matching his on-stage shaking with their own. Together, they are a unified source of enthusiasm and revelry. The bass guitarist, for example, played several powerful solos, all the while bobbing his head as if Terminal 5 were taken over by Nine Inch Nails.

Brass purists may decry the amplification and influences from other styles, but those people probably wouldn’t show up for a Trombone Shorty show anyway. The musician has built a career out of taking the musical DNA of his hometown and then reinterpreting it with a pulsating beat. There are plenty of reminders that this music emanates from the memories of a singer who knows the Crescent City well.

Shorty, who tours perpetually, is able to take tracks off his three Verve albums. In addition to “Backatown,” there’s “For True” and the 2013 release, “Say That to Say This.” He’s not a one-hit wonder; the musician has proved himself from a young age that he’s the new face of rock-funk-jazz-hip-hop. The list of this multihyphenate could go on and on.

The Soul Rebels offered a stirring 40-minute set to start the night. They played a nonstop series of brass songs that highlighted their obvious skill on the instruments. The tromobonists, saxophonist, trumpeters and tuba player dipped and swayed to the rhythmic beats they produced. Shout outs to sing along were fast and plentiful, and it was easy to do as they commanded. A song incorporating “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from “Annie” was a highlight, plus there was “504.”

This is a band that needs to be experienced. They were relegated to the “let’s get the party started” slot with Shorty, but seeing them as headliners in a few short years seems like a safe bet. If one can’t wait that long, check out their regular residencies in New Orleans.

By John Soltes / Publisher /

  • Click here for more information on Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. Click here for more information on the Soul Rebels.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at, among other publications. E-mail him at

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