Favorite Music: Lenny Kravitz with Trombone Shorty
If I had to to pick a single favorite artist over the last twenty years of poplar music, that would have to be Lenny Kravitz.
Kravitz brings it all to the stage and to the studio — raw talent, boundless energy, natural charisma, and a gift for both music and lyric. His songs and style are often criticized as “retro,” but there’s nothing wrong with taking the best sounds of the past and mixing them with a modern interpretative. Amy Winehouse used to catch this same flack, too. Frankly, I wish there was more “retro” music, not less.
My relationship with Kravitz is something quite personal. Think of it this way. Most of the music we enjoy is personal. It touches us. More importantly, it connects us with key moments in our lives, and frames the memories we hope to cherish forever. I’ll bet most of you remember certain songs and music based on the events of your lives. In a sense, our music is our own personal soundtrack.
Back in 1989, just prior to leaving the United States for two years to live and work in Romania, I entered a music store in Arlington, VA. Remember music stores? They’re now a thing of the past. Back then, whenever a new album came out, it would be played inside record stores. So, you came across entirely new sounds and brand new artists, just by walking in and browsing the shelves (this was when people used to go out and buy CDs, rather than stealing them for free off the internet).
I remember standing in an aisle and this strange song came over the loudspeaker. It was Lenny Kravitz’ “Let Love Rule.”
What a stunning song. A masterpiece. A rock anthem. Note: The title track “Let Love Rule” was also the name of Kravitz’ debut album. READ MORE HERE
Another side note I found interesting: Kravitz plays a number of different instruments on his debut album — including vocals, guitar, organ, bass, drums, and percussion.
Oddly enough, that song and album did not initially sell well, either in the U.S. or the U.K. It never broke the Top 50 in either country. But it enjoyed much more success in Europe, and particularly in Eastern Europe.
Watch the official video here:
When I moved to Bucharest that fall, I had only a few suitcases in tow with me — at least until my shipment of personal goods arrived in Romania a few months later. Let Love Rule was one of the few CDs I took along. In a nation with only one television station, a blackout on foreign broadcasts, and little more than Communist Party and patriotic music on the radio, I absolutely wore out that copy of “Let Love Rule.” We also had a deployment of U.S. Marines at the embassy. When they heard Kravitz for the first time, they too became addicted. Several of the Marines made copies of my CD on cassette tape.
That’s the way music was back in those days. There would be a new sound and everyone would do whatever it took to make copies of the music. It was like being in high school.
Fast forward six months later: On one my first dates with Marieta (we later got married), we went away to the Black Sea Coast and drove down to a city called Varna. We walked into a small cafe. Someone had a boom box on the counter with cassettes playing. Sure enough, this tiny cafe in Bulgaria was spinning “Let Love Rule.” What are the odds?
Weeks later, the same thing happened again. This time, inside the Intercontinental Hotel in central Bucharest. Playing over the hotel loudspeaker in the lobby…..you guessed it — “Let Love Rule.”
I assume most of those listening in places like Romania and Bulgaria didn’t understand what “Let Love Rule” meant. After all, they didn’t speak English. That didn’t matter. Indeed, music is the universal language.
Which now brings us to Trombone Shorty.
I’ve always loved the music of New Orleans. It’s inside the clubs. In the shops and restaurants. In the streets. I think it’s deeply ingrained in the people. Perhaps it’s in their DNA.
During many visits to New Orleans, I’ve always been impressed by a most common site there, one that you don’t see in other cities. Just about every child in the school system plays a musical instrument. If you see kids walking home from schools, just about all of them are carrying musical instruments with them, even at a very young age.
One time, I remember being in the Garden District. A young Black boy who must have been no more than 8 or 9 was carrying a huge black suitcase, shaped like a horn. The instrument was about half his size, and the young boy was dragging it along on the way home from school. I wish I could have taken a picture of that image, that sticks with me to this day. That child pulling along a heavy musical instrument so he could learn to play and “fit in.” That’s pretty special.
No doubt, that little boy and his love of music is something endemic in the culture there. And it has nothing to do with playing in the school band. Music just happens to be very important to people in New Orleans, more so than any other city in America, I’d say.
Someone named “Trombone Shorty” (real name: Troy Andrews) would surely agree. Perhaps he was once that little boy himself, when he went to school.
Sometime around 2006, I was working a WSOP Circuit event at Harrah’s New Orleans. The tournament director Steve Frezer came in and put on some music, while poker players were taking their seats.
This unique sound — even for New Orleans — blasted from the speakers. It was awesome!
I didn’t even want the tournament to start. Instead, I wanted to hear more of the music.
“Steve, turn that up!” I shouted.
When I later asked Frezer about what he was playing, he told me for the first time about Trombone Shorty.
Now years later, you can see him and his band performing just about everywhere. Trombone Shorty tours nationally. He even gets airplay on jazz stations.
Maybe the same thing will happen to the school boy. Let’s hope so.
Gee, wouldn’t it be cool to see Lenny Kravitz perform with Trombone Shorty?
We’re in luck.
Check out this video clip taken from a music festival a few years ago, in Seattle. It’s raw in some spots. But pay special attention to the clip at about the 3:00 mark when the horns come in.
I would not think it possible to outshine and steal the show from Lenny Kravtiz. But somehow, Trombone Shorty manages to do that. Shorty busts into the act about about the 5;00 mark. It’s a long clip and worth every second.