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Gerald Carpenter: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue to Play at UCSB

The troupe will bring sounds of the Big Easy to Santa Barbara in a concert Friday night

Inaugurating its new “Big Easy: Music of New Orleans” series, UCSB Arts & Lectures will present a jazz/funk rock concert by the Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue at 8 p.m. Friday in UCSB Campbell Hall.

Troy Trombone Shorty Andrews hails from the Tremé, so he knows what he’s doing.
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews hails from the Tremé, so he knows what he’s doing.

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews comes from the heart of musical New Orleans, the Tremé neighborhood of the 6th Ward (those who have been watching David Simon’s newest HBO series, Tremé, set in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, will know all about that).

Andrews’ music has been the focus of a perfect storm of approval, from jazz and rock musicians alike, all across the spectrum. His band, Orleans Avenue, consists of Mike Ballard (bass), Pete Murano (guitar), Joey Peebles (drums), Dwayne Williams (percussion), Dan Oestreicher (baritone sax) and Tim McFatter (tenor sax).

When I was a teenager and forming my tastes as a music lover, I heard a number of classical musicians say that listening to music on a record was “like getting kissed over the telephone.” Even if I grant a modicum of accuracy to this simile, it still reminds me of a slogan provided by an ad agency hired by a symphony orchestra to increase attendance at its concerts. To be sure, music heard in a live concert often has an almost magical charge to it that studio recordings never have, but the magic is just as often undercut by other factors — the constant coughing of the many bored patrons who are thinking about themselves instead of the music, the prevalence on modern programs of works chosen for their name-brand familiarity rather than their ability to touch the souls of the listeners, and so on.

In point of fact, the main thing about classical music — composed music — is that it is to be performed as accurately and lovingly as possible. This can be achieved on recordings just as readily as in concert, if not more so. At least 99 percent of the individual works I have heard in my life, I first — and, usually, only — heard on vinyl. There would be far fewer music lovers in the world if we had to rely on concert experiences to create them.

But when a jazz musician complains that a jazz recording is “as stale as yesterday’s newspaper,” he is not being clever — he is directly addressing something absolutely central to the nature of jazz. In his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), German writer Walter Benjamin wrote, “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking one element — its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” And even the most perfect recording of a jazz performance, one that somehow managed to capture even the magic charge of the live concert, would cease to be jazz once the recording was complete. When the music can no longer grow and change in real time, it is no longer jazz, no longer something that is happening right now, which can become something else in a heartbeat.

That is why jazz has never had a mass audience and never will. Santa Barbara recently hosted a concert by the Fab Four, a musical act that re-created, note for note and movement for movement, a Beatles concert. Can you imagine a group of four black musicians touring the country re-creating concerts by the Modern Jazz Quartet?

I’m sure Andrews and the band would love for you to buy their CDs, but if you want to hear them play jazz, you’ll have to go to Campbell Hall on Friday night. Tickets are $38 for the general public and $19 for UCSB students with valid ID.

For tickets or more information, click here or call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805.893.3535.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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