Reviews

NESLORT

Neslort is, of course, Trolsen backwards, and the return of this odd 1990s project led by the eccentric New Orleans trombonist Rick Trolsen is the latest gift from the ever-generous Threadhead social network, and something of a triumph for Jeff Albert’s Open Ears Series, which has featured the band. The music—and concept—is so reminiscent of Frank Zappa’s droll virtuosity that the first phrase that comes to mind in describing the album is that it has no commercial potential (in the best possible interpretation of said phrase). The album title itself recalls Zappa’s gleeful defenestration of mystics and gurus
from Apostrophe, “Cosmik Debris,” just as song titles “Bedwetting for Example” and “The Yoga Rope Rag” suggest further arpeggiated snickers and snorks. But Trolsen’s humor is a mask that only barely conceals his earnest, humanistic side. Irony is replaced by sheer dread in “Blues for Man’s Extinction,” an all-too-realistic song about recent events (“Oil in the Gulf, Wetlands are sinking / Beaches are covered with tar”) and “Picture” is a utopian vision of a possible future.
Neslort’s music is strikingly beautiful and well-played, shaped by Trolsen’s angular,
chromatically dense arrangements and a level of performance from the band members that takes everything to another level. The rhythm section of Matt Perrine on electric bass, Larry Sieberth on keys and Boyanna Trayanova on drums is supple and precise as it drives the unorthodox time signatures and layered pulses that place Trolsen, saxophonist Kyle Cripps and guitarist Tim Robertson in such esoteric contexts. Trolsen’s soloing in the midst of these gems of creative whimsy recalls Zappa stalwart Bruce Fowler’s jaunty fights of fancy. His singing is also surprisingly good in a Greg Lake/Jack Bruce kind of way.
Most of all, Neslort is an indication of the breadth and creativity of New Orleans
musicians. Anywhere else in the world, a band that has to do the kind of heavy lifting required to play arrangements as complex as these would be anything but a side project.
~John Swenson
The Jazz/Rock group Neslort has been playing together since 1991 and has two recordings  to date. Their latest recording, MYSTICAL SCAM, is a showcase of creativity, energy, excitement, humor, and sarcasm. If you are in the mood for lively, contemporary music then this recording should fit the bill. The group’s leader, Rick Trolsen, composed all the charts for this recording. Rick’s soulful and fiery trombone solos and interjections dance through the intricate compositions with ease, and the other group members are equally matched with his sincere and impassioned playing. From the expressive saxophone solos of Kyle Cripps, Tim Robertson’s burning guitar riffs, Larry Sieberth’s funky organ solos, Matt Perrine’s groovin’ bass lines or Boyanna Trayanova’s rock-solid drumming, each musician’s enthusiasm and dedication to the collective is apparent and this group really
rocks. Rick also sings on a few of the selections. Lyrics are provided in the liner notes.
Like the lyrics to his compositions, Trolsen has a meaningful story to tell and the group tells it very convincingly. With a fusion of rock, funk, jazz and reggae in a highly
creative and entertaining fashion, Neslort will leave you feeling better than you felt before you gave them a listen. What else would you expect from a New Orleans-based band?
-Clarence Hines – University of North Florida –
International Trombone Association Journal


Sunrise on Bourbon St.

New Orleans trombonist Rick Trolsen, along with fellow musicians
Tom Saunders, Steve Pistorius, Herman LeBeaux, and others, gives a phenomenal tribute to traditional jazz classics including “Milenburg Joys” and “The Pearls” from Jelly Roll Morton; “Anything Goes” by Cole Porter; “Puttin’ On The Ritz” by Irving Berlin; and “Ory’s Creole Trombone” by Edward “Kid” Ory. The musical interpretations of Trolsen take the listener back in time, to the days of Bourbon Street when jazz music itself was a risqué and sexy taboo in
society. The sound from the ragtime piano, simple back bass beat, and rough brassy sound of Trolsen’s trombone simply screams of what makes New Orleans the unique city it is, and allows the listener to truly experience the essence of NOLA. Trolsen reaches down into the dirty grittiness of his voice to give the listener that memorable hangover feeling on his own “Sunrise On Bourbon Street,” which can simply be described as a colorful musical interpretation of any evening one may have partied too much and drank one too many Pat O’Brien’s Hurricanes. Throughout the entire CD, Trolsen captures the sweetness and purity of his chosen traditional jazz classics, giving a form of NOLA rebirth to another
generation. Any lover of traditional jazz music, historian, and collector of New Orleans music in general will easily fall head over heels for this CD, which quenches the thirst for so many classics that could never be forgotten. Sheri McKee
Roughly a century after its inception, traditional New Orleans jazz is many things to  different people, ranging from a Parnassus of formal majesty to a ponderous street corner cliché. In settings like the Palm Court and Fritzel’s, the canon is delivered like a sacrament by musicians who understand its innate power and received with reverence by an audience of knowledgeable enthusiasts. On Bourbon Street and at the Convention Center, the same music is treated as inoffensive party fare that won’t offend right wing businessmen looking for “Old South values.” Boston Legal recently nailed this syndrome when William Shatner’s Denny Crane character viewed a New Orleans case as a chance to get on stage with the band at the Famous Door and play kazoo trombone. That’s no kazoo Rick Trolsen’s playing on his tribute to traditional jazz, Sunrise on Bourbon Street. Trolsen, one of the most gifted trombonists in a city known for them, is part of a small coterie of players who treat tradition jazz as a medium to be actively explored for its contemporary possibilities. His outstanding work in Bonerama places Trolsen squarely in the moment, but like his compatriots on this album, he clearly enjoys an inquisitive stroll down this music’s archival arbors. Trolsen can tailgate like the great Kid Ory on his 1922 romp “Ory’s Creole Trombone.” He can also be blunt-edged, as in his visceral take on the 1930 hit “Exactly Like You”; jauntily amusing, as in his mute work on Hoagy Carmichael’s happy-go-lucky 1931 number “The Riverboat Shuffle”; or elegantly mellifluous, as on the Jelly Roll Morton 1923 masterpiece, “The Pearls.” Trolsen’s sidemen on this date are equally adventurous, from Tom Saunders’ bass saxophone solo on “Milenberg Joys” to Herman LeBeaux’s nifty press roll solo on “The Original Dixieland One Step.” Steve Pistorius provides crafty piano accompaniment as he coaxes octogenarian forms into new clothing. Special guest Tom McDermott, whose piano playing goes even further in its deconstruction of traditional jazz, pushes Trolsen’s envelope so far on “Panama Rag” that this version sounds positively contemporary. Another guest, bassist James Singleton, turns Irving Berlin’s 1929 hit “Puttin’ on the Ritz” into a dramatic showcase that features two driving bass solos and a climactic growl of a trombone chorus from Trolsen.
The most striking element of this record is the title track, Trolsen’s low-down description of the state of mind that greets the end of an all-nighter in the French Quarter. This is a tune that could fit anyone’s expectations of traditional New Orleans jazz, and its dark, slightly dyspeptic mood evokes a sensibility not far removed from Cat Power, not to mention Morning 40 Federation. With McDermott playing wild minor key fills against the beat and Matt Perrine adding sick tuba accompaniment, Trolsen’s ultimate tribute to his hometown’s traditional sound is to add another useful piece to its liturgy.
~John Swenson


New Orleans Lullaby

In a town where musicians move freely between styles, Rick Trolsen still stands out for his genre jumps. Back in the mid-1990s, the trombonist’s explorations took him to the fringes of jazz when he headed his unorthodox group Neslort that produced the curiously wonderful Martian Circus Waltz. In 2004, Trolsen expressed his immersion into Brazilian choro music on his fine release, Gringo do Choro. This time, he’s all about New Orleans and tradition with a sweet tribute to his adopted hometown on an album full of classic jazz standards. The constant through all of these endeavors is the quality of Trolsen’s musicianship and the sensitivity and honesty he brings to each project.
He chooses artists to be by his side who share his talents and values. On New Orleans Lullaby, Trolsen and the band with pianist Tom McDermott or Frederick Sanders, bassist James Singleton or bassist/sousaphonist Matt Perrine, drummer Ronnie Magri and banjoist Larry Scala offer excellent versions of songs that fill this city’s air. It starts with the rich tones of Trolsen’s trombone mournfully alone ‘singing’ “What a Wonderful World.” The band jumps in with Tom McDermott on the piano for “Blue Turning Grey Over You” with Trolsen chiming in on vocals. McDermott seems to be called in when Trolsen aims for a classic sound, as on “Creole Love Song.” Here the trombone takes on the part typically played on clarinet or soprano saxophone.
Having the ‘bone as the only horn makes this traditional jazz gathering tonally unique and opens up new ways to approach old chestnuts. At points, Trolsen really goes for the high end of the register, almost emulating a trumpet on “Sleepy Time Down South.” Frederick Sanders gets onboard here and for other swinging numbers like “Give Me a Kiss To Build a Dream On.” The sousaphone and banjo team up for the uplifting “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” and the always articulate James Singleton gets some slapping bass going on “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”
New Orleans Lullaby satisfies on many levels because it’s damn good music played by damn good musicians. As the song says, “You can’t ask for anything more.”
Geraldine Wyckoff – Offbeat Magazine

Gringo do Choro

There’s a gringo on the choro scene. Not to mention samba and other bossas
(including the nova). A good sport, New Jersey-born, American trombonist, Rick Trolsen has incorporated the gringo nickname and named his new CD “Gringo do Choro.” But don’t expect macumba for the tourist. Quite the contrary. The first contact this New Orleans-based jazzman had with Brazilian music was with the signature tune “Aquarela do Brasil” (Ary Barroso), which he heard on the soundtrack of “Brazil,” the intriguing film by Terry Gilliam. This initial interest increased when Rick traveled to Brazil in 2001 to play at the Free Jazz Festival with the lavish brass band, New Orleans Nightcrawlers. Next followed a 10-day vacation, during which he toured the musical polyphony of the revitalized Lapa district of downtown Rio de Janeiro. The result is this multi-faceted CD on which he gathers musicians from various sources: Henry Lentino and Sérgio Krakowski, (Tira Poeira), Guilherme Maravilhas (Forroçacana), Marcello Gonçalves (Trio Madeira Brasil), João Hermeto (Abraçando Jacaré), along with Gabriel Improta and Vitor Trope.
For those who have always considered choro to be Brazilian jazz, this CD can provide evidence for that thesis. Musical accents fuse together on tracks including the classic “Tico-tico no Fubá,” where a samba flavor pops up, with a touch of “maxixe” in “Abraçando Jacaré” or the dialogue between trombone and guitar in “Noites Cariocas,” by Jacob do Bandolim. In another Bandolim composition, “Gostosinho,” Rick seems to have taken
his trombone into the swaying moves of a gafieira. “Medicine Lodge” and “Goodbye My Friend”, both written by Trolsen, accentuate the crossover, with afro-samba evident in the former and seresta in the latter. Bossa nova finds its place in “Pensativa,” by Clare
Fischer, another American insider, arranger for João Gilberto, and guitar partner of Helio Delmiro. As for the megaclassic  “Chega de Saudade,” although it has turned out to be ground zero for Bossa Nova, it is a hybrid of choro and bossa.
Rick Trolsen has also penetrated the melancholy of the samba in contemplative themes such as “Folhas Secas” and “Três Apitos,” in addition to refining an instrumental classic somewhat forgotten, even by Brazilians, “Saxofone porque choras” by Severino Rangel,
the Ratinho from the musical/comedy duo Jararaca e Ratinho.  Faithful to the Carnival spirit that is the bridge between the two cities, New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro (where Rick chose to record this CD to capture the ambience), “Gringo do Choro” ends up in exuberant jubilation. A devilish medley joins together two sambas of planetary success, “Tristeza” and “Aquarela do Brasil” itself, the wellspring of this whole project. Filled with intense percussion and lush strings, Trolsen’s horns simultaneously inject vivacity, wonder and peculiarity into these well known themes. Quite a major accomplishment. A testament that this Brazilianist really got it and on top of that added his personal virtuose touch.
Tarik de Souza