By Stephanie Nebehay
MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) – Usher and The Roots, and Trombone Shorty gave high-energy shows at the Montreux Jazz Festival on Wednesday night, bringing American funk, hip-hop and R&B to the famed stage.
Legendary producer Quincy Jones introduced Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, recalling having heard him play as a child on the radio. “He was 8 years old then, now he’s 31, my brother Trombone Shorty.”
“You’ve got a night to remember,” said Jones, a co-director of Montreux in the 1990s. “These are some talented boys.”
The New Orleans musician and singer, born Troy Andrews, opened the night, making his third appearance, five years after his last show in 2012.
Wearing black sunglasses, he bounded onto the stage and kneeled to play trombone during the first number “Backatown”.
He played tracks from his latest album “Parking Lot Symphony”, released in April, often doing both vocals and trombone, and ending with a tribute to James Brown.
“It’s the third time I’ve heard him. I’d like to see him in New Orleans,” said American Sharon Boggs, a resident of Switzerland attending the 51st edition of one of Europe’s most prestigious festivals. “He should be the main act. Everybody else is here for Usher.”
Usher, joined by the legendary hip-hop group The Roots and its lead singer Tarik Trotter, initially wore a black sequin jacket before shedding layers. Backed by more than a dozen musicians and singers he played tracks from his latest album Hard II Love gand displayed his dance moves.
Highlights were his hits “Bad Girl” and “Let It Burn” – during which he asked the crowd to light up their phones – followed by “Yeah!”.
The eight-time Grammy-winning singer, whose full name is Usher Raymond, has been ranked by the Recording Industry Association of America as one of the best-selling artists in American music history, having sold over 75 million albums worldwide.
The crowd paid up to 295 Swiss francs for the four-hour event but Trombone Shorty and Usher did not appear together.
Lauryn Hill of Fugees fame, Macy Gray, Ibrahim Maalouf, and Erykah Badu and Solange, sister of Beyonce, are among other artists booked at the festival that lasts through July 15.
A bronze statue of the late festival founder Claude Nobs was unveiled on Sunday in a lakeside garden alongside those of giants Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis and Ray Charles whom he brought to the Montreux stage.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Hay)