Trombone Shorty at WOMAD
Neil McKim catches the trombonist's set with the Orleans Avenue band
‘I’m Trombone Shorty and I’m from the great city of New Orleans!’ yelled the trombonist as he took to the stage with his five-piece Orleans Avenue band. Set deep in the Wiltshire countryside, the crowd of thousands at this year’s WOMAD (World of Music and Dance) festival were soon dancing along to his trademark mix of marching-line jazz, rock beats and infectious charisma, delivered straight from the birthplace of jazz. The trombonist, real name Troy Andrews, got his nickname after he was spotted in a New Orleans funeral procession at the age of four, carrying a trombone as big as himself.
Shorty’s albums have been taking more and more of a raw edge and this was reflected in his WOMAD set, with the volume dials cranked up for tracks from his last disc Say That To Say This. His improvisation is formidable: not just an adept trombonist, he can also turn his skill to trumpet with soaring solos. And talking solos, the bass guitarist – Michael Bass Ballard – dazzled the crowd with his thundering technique, which used strummed chords. His expanded solo went on for well over five minutes in ‘Backatown’, the excellent title track from Shorty’s 2011 disc.
As always, this year’s WOMAD was teeming with worldwide musical influences, with stages ranging from Radio 3’s intimate ‘Charlie Gillett Stage’, to the vast ‘Open Air Stage’ or the huge enclosed ‘Siam Tent’. Among the names that appeared on the bill were festival legends like Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour and Mali’s Salif Keita, and a little rooting around showed some interesting jazz appearances, such as Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca or Brighton vocalist Alice Russell. (Russell made it along this year for a soulful set after being ill for 2013).
A real highlight was hearing Cameroon's sax legend Manu Dibango, now 80, dropping brief snippets of Sonny Rollins’s ‘St Thomas’ and Duke Ellington’s ‘Take the A Train’ into his set, before a superb encore featuring his rousing ‘Afro-soul’ anthem ‘Soul Makossa’. And as darkness fell, DJ David Holmes, famous for his jazz-tinged soundtracks to the Oceans 11 film franchise, put in a rare UK appearance.
It’s fair to say that this year’s WOMAD was a great success, easily reaching its full capacity of 40,000 with sunshine all round.