The concert was yet another sold-out event in the UCSB Arts & Lectures concert series, which has become more popular than ever this season.
UCSB Arts & Lectures was founded in 1959; 54 years later, the group continues to expand its cultural outreach program, producing more than 100 events at UCSB and surrounding Santa Barbara venues every year.
The organization's stated mission is to “educate, entertain and inspire.” To that end, UCSB Arts & Lectures has also developed an educational outreach program featuring master classes, open rehearsals, lecture-demonstrations and classroom discussions with visiting artists and speakers at UCSB as well as local elementary and high schools. Last year, more than 11,000 college and school-age students participated in 81 educational outreach events hosted by Arts & Lectures.
The Trombone Shorty concert Thursday night combined all of these lofty goals into a riveting evening of musical education for Santa Barbara’s young and old. Just like he did when he played at the same venue a few years ago, Andrews invited aspiring local high school musicians to attend the band's rehearsal. Then the band proceeded to perform a spirited jam session, inviting the young musicians who brought their own instruments to play with them.
Andrews allowed each of the nervous but determined young jazz buffs to take a turn leading the band with their trumpets or trombones. Some performances by the youths were very good, while others were not so great, but Andrews and the band encouraged and no doubt inspired every young musician brave enough to take the main stage challenge.
One young trumpeter who took the challenge was Jason Gonzalez Larsen, a San Marcos High School student who was encouraged to attend the event by his music teacher, Kiyoi Roblis. Asked why he was more interested in jazz than pop music like most people his age, he credited his father with introducing him to jazz music and the bible of jazz, The Real Book. In fact, nearly every student I chatted with credited their dads with influencing their interest in jazz. Way to go, fathers, keeping alive the most intricate and complicated form of pop music today.
The Grammy-nominated Andrews and his band of crack jazz funk rockers then proceeded to play a nearly two-hour set for the sold-out crowd of much older jazz fans in the packed auditorium. All the musicians in Orleans Avenue showcased their immense talents in solo jam sessions.
The band features Mike Ballard on bass, Dan Oestreicher on baritone sax, Tim McFatter on tenor sax, Pete Murano on guitar and Joey Peebles on drums. The 16-song set list included much of the band's newest material and some older classics. The band also played several covers, from musicians as diverse as Louis Armstrong and The Guess Who.
Andrews is a consummate showman born in the musical melting pot of New Orleans rhythms. He sings, dances and tells humorous anecdotes about his musical creations. But his greatest talents lie in his masterful abilities on the trombone and trumpet, offering up uncanny extended solos, with a seemingly unending supply of air in his lungs.
Trombone Shorty has been a member of the legendary New Orleans Social Club since 2005. He got together with other famous musicians from the region to make music to raise money for victims of the devastating Hurricane Katrina. His fame grew after being called upon to fly to London to work with U2. But it has been his relentless touring with his current band over the last several years, playing nearly every major music festival in the country, that has made him a familiar face in today’s pop music world. (He is set to play at this year's Coachella festival.)
The show Thursday night ended with the usually sedate academic crowd all up on their feet. Most were compelled to start dancing, New Orleans style to a rousing encore jam. Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue seem to be traditional jazz alive in their own unique mix for generations of new music fans.
Click here for more information about upcoming events through UCSB Arts & Lectures.
— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.