If you’ve ever wanted to improvise like Trombone Shorty, then here it is. “Justice” is ripe with Shorty phrases and minor-pentatonic patterns over a mostly static harmony, not unlike an Arban’s book of exercises meant to stretch the limbs but really goes nowhere. Indeed, the melodic development can be hindered when the chords behind it rarely change, yet Shorty manages to work his way outside of the chords using a collection of patterns that provide some of that funky New Orleans color in an otherwise “white-noise” world. Despite it not being a carefully crafted performance, this solo provides plenty of material for those improvisors who prefer to internalize the linguistic patterns of music in order to “play freely,” drawing from their rich vocabulary.
And I don’t know how these studio collaborations often work (Was it the idea of a publicist/manager? Do the musicians write the music and lyrics together? And who pays for the pizza?), but I like to imagine that it goes something like this:
DUMPSTAPHUNK: Hey Shorty, you wanna play on our new single?
SHORTY: Sure! Let me show you how high I can play!
And the rest is history, I am certain. Obviously, the social message of “Justice” also needs to be addressed in these trying times, and I while I hope that all collaborations are as easygoing as I just imagined them to be, this song has been a reminder for me to continue practicing the most important lesson that I have learned from my transcription work: the value of listening.
Here is a YouTube video from a recent Trombone Shorty concert in Paris. Très bon.
Recommended reading: Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews. Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers.