If anybody knows their way around a festival, it’s Trombone Shorty. Born Troy Andrews, he got his start (and nickname) earlier than most: at four, he made his first appearance at Jazz Fest performing with Bo Diddley; at six, he was leading his own brass band; and by his teenage years, he was hired by Lenny Kravitz to join the band he assembled for his Electric Church World Tour. Shorty’s proven he’s more than just a horn player, though. Catch a gig, open the pages of the New York Times or Vanity Fair, flip on any late-night TV show and you’ll see an undeniable star with utterly magnetic charisma, a natural born showman who can command an audience with the best of them. Since 2010, he’s released four chart topping studio albums; toured with everyone from Jeff Beck to the Red Hot Chili Peppers; collaborated across genres with Pharrell, Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson, Foo Fighters, ZHU, Zac Brown, Normani, Ringo Starr, and countless more; played Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Newport Folk, Newport Jazz, and nearly every other major festival; performed four times at the GRAMMY Awards, five times at the White House, on dozens of TV shows, and at the star-studded Sesame Street Gala, where he was honored with his own Muppet; launched the Trombone Shorty Foundation to support youth music education; and received the prestigious Caldecott Honor for his first children’s book. Meanwhile in New Orleans, Shorty now leads his own Mardi Gras parade atop a giant float crafted in his likeness, hosts the annual Voodoo Threauxdown shows that have drawn guests including Usher, Nick Jonas, Dierks Bentley, Andra Day, and Leon Bridges to sit in with his band, and has taken over the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival’s hallowed final set, which has seen him closing out the internationally renowned gathering after performances by the likes of Neil Young, the Black Keys, and Kings of Leon.
That sense of excitement and liberation is palpable on Lifted, which opens with the addictive “Come Back.” Fueled by a bottom-heavy rhythm section, buoyant keys, and bright flashes of brass, the track pairs a hip-hop groove with hard rock energy as Shorty delivers silky smooth vocals that float effortlessly above the instrumental fray. As its title might suggest, the song is a reckoning with loss and regret, but like much of the album, it refuses to surrender to disappointment, keeping its chin held high as it presses forward and fights for what it wants. The effervescent “What It Takes” gets profoundly funky as it celebrates the strength and growth that can emerge from times of struggle, while the bittersweet “Forgiveness” leans into the band’s R&B side as it works to move on from pain and betrayal, and the blistering “I’m Standing Here” (which features a mind-bending guitar solo from Gary Clark Jr.) rushes headlong into the maelstrom.
Shorty makes sure to celebrate the good times on the album, too, reveling in the joy of love and friendship and family throughout. The spirited “Might Not Make It Home” commits to letting go and living in the moment; the playful “Miss Beautiful” embraces the thrill of desire while offering a twist on the second line tradition, with an electric bass stepping in for the tuba; and the feel-good “Everybody In The World” (which features the New Breed Brass Band) finds common ground in our universal desire for love and acceptance. But it’s perhaps the electrifying title track, which lands somewhere between Earth, Wind & Fire and Shorty’s old tourmate Lenny Kravitz that best encapsulates the spirit of the album, wrapping earnest emotion in a high-octane package that offers you no choice but to move your body.