Rhythm. What can be more definitive in music? Rhythm is what drives music forward, particularly in music that derived from African roots like jazz. Trombone Shorty knows all about rhythm. He’s one of those New Orleans guys who never really shook that New Orleans attitude in his playing (thankfully). Trombone Shorty’s playing on this track especially, is derived from New Orleans Brass Band trombone playing. He approaches his solo very rhythmically, and doesn’t vary the notes he uses hardly at all. I think he steps outside the notes of the Eb minor pentatonic scale maybe once in this entire solo. The information is not in the note choice, but in the rhythmic development.
If you’re not familiar with Trombone Shorty, it’s time to check him out. He’s equally as scary a trumpet player (original plan was to do a trumpet solo of his today as well, but I ran out of time), and is also a great singer.
Clearly, this video isn’t your traditional New Orleans jazz. Shorty has taken his roots as a brass band musician and brought in other mediums, like rock and funk. He says in the beginning “we’re here to bring you the funk,” but really, this is rock music. Hard-hitting, aggressive, loud rock music. But it still has that New Orleans flavor. He even names this tune Backatown, which I can only imagine is a tip-of-the-hat to the old New Orleans brass band tune “Back-O-Town Blues.” That being said, musically, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Within seconds of the beginning of Shorty’s solo, he sets the tone in a rhythmic fashion, and from there it’s off to the races. I would suggest when practicing this solo to focus on Shorty’s inflections. The way he articulates each note, and accents some more than others, is part of what informs his sense of time and rhythm, in my opinion the strongest part of his improvising. There are obviously some things that are trombone specific, like glisses in to notes, but there are ways to mimic that same inflection on all instruments.
I chose a youtube video so you all could have a full version of the tune (there are two songs on this video, actually). The amazon link takes you to one of Trombone Shorty’s albums. You won’t be sorry, he’s a monster.
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