3 ½ out of 5 stars
Take a handful of funk, add a pitcher of R&B, toss in some jazz, sprinkle a dusting of hip-hop, and sauté that gumbo under a sizzling New Orleans flame for a flavorful musical dish. It’s what the Crescent City’s Trombone Shorty has been serving up for the better part of two decades.
Few other artists from Louisiana can compete with Troy Andrews’ (aka Trombone Shorty) dominance of spreading the New Orleans mojo worldwide. He has played all the major fests from the Newport Jazz Festival to Coachella and Bonnaroo, preaching the gospel of his frisky, spirited and above all danceable roots music as an unofficial ambassador from his Southern stomping ground.
Even though those adrenalized concerts feature his hometown’s punchy brass and hardscrabble beats, Shorty has never been shy about sanding off the rougher edges on an album to attract a crossover audience. That’s the case with this, his first studio set in five years.
The combination of Earth, Wind & Fire-styled brass with Prince’s deep funk groove and sing-along choruses makes tracks such as “Might Not Make It Home,” “Come Back,” and “Good Company” intoxicating examples of Shorty at his bounciest. But there’s more to his approach than that, exemplified by the tough, bluesy grind of “I’m Standing Here” powered by a scorching trombone solo and an even hotter show-stopping turn from guest guitarist Gary Clark Jr. He rocks out on the title track which also adds gospel fried backing soul singers to the mouthwatering mix. The mood settles down for the sweet ’70s Philadelphia International-inspired soul of “Forgiveness” and the regretful ballad “What It Takes,” which features the multi-talented bandleader on trumpet.
The album reflects a partial taste of the sweaty energy generated at a typical Shorty concert. Yet there’s enough pulsating power in these performances to show that the frontman has harnessed his live enthusiasm for the studio. That makes Lifted another succulent appetizer, one which hints at an even better meal when he unleashes these songs on stage.
Photo Credit: Justen Williams