By Michael Lester

Photos by Jim Gavenus

WILKES-BARRE — Troy Andrews lowered his shiny trombone to his waist, wiped his mouth and swiveled from his dual microphones at the front of the F.M. Kirby Center stage, approaching shaggy-haired Joey Peebles’ drum kit.

Clearly spent after delivering a several-minute cheek-bulging horn solo, Andrews resembled a marathon runner crossing a finish line.

He hunched over to catch his breath, lowering his arms toward his loosely laced shit-kicker boots and rested his hands upon his knees

The lean and angular 28-year-year-old brass machine from New Orleans known as Trombone Shorty, who arrived on stage in sunglasses to start the show, spared little energy during Friday’s funk-heavy show in Wilkes-Barre, as the pit stains on his lavender oxford suggested by the show’s midpoint.

Andrews, who also plays trumpet and lent vocals to a number of songs, would later shed the shades as well as the button-down shirt, revealing a black T-shirt.

email_shorty_5504He and his five-man backing band, Orleans Avenue, which includes sax tandem Dan Oestreicher and Tim McFatter and boyish guitarist Pete Murano, channeled French Quarter jazz, Jimi Hendrix  blues, James Brown soul and a pulsating instrumental cover of The Guess Who’s “American Woman.”

Andrews paid homage to his roots early in the show, noting he and his band’s origins from the “great city of New Orleans.”

“Who dat?” Andrews proudly announced, barking a phrase popularized by New Orleans Saints football fans.

Borrowing from Hendrix, Andrews prefaced “Dumaine St.,” from his 2011 “For True” album, by blowing an introductory “Voodoo Chile” riff into his trombone.

The set later wound into jazz standard “Sunny Side of the Street,” a funkified version of “On Your Way Down,” a 1970s Allen Toussaint blues tune perhaps better known as a Little Feat and Phish cover, and jazz standard “St James Infirmary,” during which Andrews traded Cab Calloway “hi-de-hos” with the crowd.

Andrews and his band’s energy flowed to the audience, where some ticket holders stood through much of the two-hour show for a gyrating cardio workout of their own.  Andrews even rewarded some of those occupying the front row with high fives.

In return, Andrews received a more tangible souvenir when someone from the audience tossed flimsy bright red panties on stage.

“Can you feel the funk out there?” Andrews shouted, inciting a crowd that surprisingly filled less than half of the 1,800-seat theater.  This, after all, is a Grammy-nominated musician hand-picked by President Obama to perform in February 2012 with the likes of B.B. King and Mick Jagger for a Black History Month celebration.

Andrews posed his funk inquiry to the crowd shortly after inviting Philadelphia-based trombonist Jeff Bradshaw on stage.  The pair dueled with their trombones before the band launched into a cover of James Brown’s “Sex Machine.”

email_shorty_5312The set ended with bassist Michael Ballard finishing a solo by dropping on his back in front of Peebles’ drums while continuing to pluck at his bass.

The band returned to the stage for an encore drum circle Andrews introduced as a “tribute to New Orleans” with band members, including Andrews, hovering around Peebles and beating at tom-toms, cymbals and snare drums.

Alexis P. Suter of New York wowed the crowd with her raspy bass-baritone voice to open the show with her band, which has become a regular on the East Coast blues festival circuit.

Suter delivered a poignant and chilling rendition of the Beatles’ “Let it Be.”  Moments later, she got frisky, turning her back to the audience and swiveling her backside before the band erupted into  a thunderous “Shake Your Hips,” a song written by bluesman Slim Harpo and recorded by the Rolling Stones on their “Exile on Main St.” album.

Suter implored those in the crowd to get to their feet and join her in the hip shaking, noting that if she could let loose as a 300-pound woman, they could too.  And many in the crowd rose to grant her wish.

Suter and her band return to the area for a Feb. 8 performance at the Moose Exchange in downtown Bloomsburg as part of Destination Blues, a weekend-long music festival at venues across Columbia and Montour counties.

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