On his fourth studio effort and first for Blue Note Records, 2017's Parking Lot Symphony, New Orleans singer, songwriter, and brass wizard Troy Andrews (aka Trombone Shorty) fully embraces the organic '70s-style R&B he’s heretofore only touched on. Ever since officially debuting in 2010 with Backatown, Andrews has moved ever closer to that '70s soul aesthetic with each subsequent album. Backatown even featured contributions from both Lenny Kravitz and legendary New Orleans pianist Allen Toussaint. In fact, his previous effort, 2013's Say That to Say This, had a similarly old-school bent courtesy of neo-soul master and co-producer Raphael Saadiq. But for Parking Lot Symphony, Andrews dives into the sound full-force, paired with producer Chris Seefried (Fitz & the Tantrums, Haley Reinhart, Andra Day) on a set of songs that bring to mind the earthy, vinyl-laden vibe of '70s artists like New Orleans own the Meters. Heralding this vintage approach are several well-chosen covers, like the Meters' 1974 Santana-style groover "It Ain't No Use," and Toussaint's New Orleans funk jammer "Here Come the Girls" (originally recorded in 1970 by Ernie K. Doe). Andrews channels new life into both tunes with his vibrant jazz- and brass-infused arrangements -- ones that don't so much reimagine the originals as re-energize them with a live-in-the-studio vibe and a youthful zeal. Even his originals here, like the joyous, choir-backed title track and the yearning, organ-steeped ballad "No Good Time," find him working in the nuanced harmonic colors and hip-swaying lyricism of band's like Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder. And yet it would be reductive to simply describe the album as "retro." Longtime fans will appreciate that Andrews hasn't abandoned his crossover, hip-hop-inflected sound, just integrated it deftly into songs like the buzz-bass heavy "Familiar" and minor key-tinged "Where It At?," tracks that nobody would think twice about hearing churn out of the car stereo in 1977. Also, as with past Trombone Shorty albums, he leaves plenty of room for enthusiastic, mid-song trombone and trumpet improvisations. Andrews even ambitiously bookends the album with two New Orleans funeral parade marches, showcasing his bluesy phrasing and clarion brass tone. Ultimately, Parking Lot Symphony is one of Trombone Shorty's most balanced productions, equal parts New Orleans R&B sophistication and loose, block party fun.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar