by Monika Viktorova
Walking out to the eager applause of a sold-out crowd at the Yardbird Suite on Saturday night, Audrey Ochoa immediately charmed the audience of the release party for her new album Afterthought. Looking out at the audience members stuffed into every available seat, some lining up outside to try their luck at grabbing a spot over intermission, Ochoa joked, “Sign of the apocalypse – full jazz club. Sign of the apocalypse two – it’s May long weekend and there’s no snow. So hold on everyone, because after the show, the world is going to end!” With Ochoa deftly switching between electrifying trombonist and endearing stand-up comedienne, the audience’s roarious laughter bookended every song.
From the opening number to the encore, Audrey Ochoa and her quartet of a Trio delivered a magnetic, invigorating performance. Jazz eludes being corralled descriptively, leaving me to frenetically scribble adjectives like “ethereal”, and “transcendent”, and nonsense nouns like “boop” and “tzz”. (Can you describe, without childish onomatopoeia, what a trombone sounds like???) To the two audience members who, with vague concern, complimented my note-taking abilities in low lighting – don’t worry, I can read about 40% of what I wrote while scrambling to linguistically lasso the emotional rollercoaster of Ochoa’s Trio-quartet performance.
Joking that she does actually know how to count, Ochoa welcomed her four person ‘Trio’: album contributor Sandro Dominelli on drums, and bassist Mike Lent’s last-minute replacement Troy Nowaselski, and Dallas Budd aka Battery Poacher, who electronically mixed several tracks on Afterthought. Budd played guitar on a couple of tracks and electronically modulated Ochoa’s trombone on a few more, making possible the quartet’s magical covers of Bjork and Beyonce.
Ochoa started the show with tracks from both her previous album, Trombone and Other Delights, as well as Afterthought. ‘Snap, Crackle, Flop’, and ‘Low Interest Rate’ were snappy and light, Ochoa’s trombone marshalling musical notes boldly with the seamless collaboration of the bass and drums. Throughout the evening, Ochoa blended highly technical performance with the playful confidence and gusto of a musician completely in her element.
Ochoa, clad in a classic red wrap dress and a pair of striped pumps, was spotlit against the red-backlit curtains of the Yardbird stage, creating a moody, low lit red aesthetic. Joined by the otherworldly atmosphere of the thrilling murmurs and crescendos of her trombone, the scene reminisced of David Lynch’s titular Roadhouse Bar musicians in Twin Peaks.
Ochoa’s music, at times boisterous and at times melancholy, guided the audience through discordant emotions. A mournful number from Afterthought, ‘There You Were’ whose inspiration was Ochoa’s divorce, conveyed the delicate pain of losing a partner and the nostalgia for your time together. Dominelli’s drums complemented the trills of the trombone with a steady, monotonous beat underscoring the relentless forward-march of life. The audience, spellbound, skipped the ‘woos’ and ‘shouts’, clapping in quiet reverie instead.
The title namesake track, ‘Afterthought’, showcased the sublime collaboration between jazz and electronica created by Ochoa and Dallas Budd/Battery Poacher. The immersive ethereal synths in the background submerged the audience, slightly warping the trombone to give it an almost underwater sound. The track built up into a classic electronic drop, combining a deep bass beat with Ochoa’s trombone weaving in to create a vivid soundscape hybrid of genre, atmosphere and sound.
Budd’s electronic additions on two Bjork covers, Hyper Ballad and Army of Me proved similarly integral, creating a scaffolding of oscillating notes reminiscent of a theremin over which Ochoa layered the deep growls of trombone in place of Bjork’s vocals. The medley resulted in an upbeat cacophony you could expect serving as background music in Star Wars’ Mos Aisley Cantina.
Two more covers -one of Beyonce’s Sorry, which elicited unbridled excitement from the audience, and one of Di Angelo’s Africa, showcased the quartet at their best, creating a chimera of genres and sounds in their jazz interpretations of evocative pop. The two-set performance ended with Ant & Grasshopper, the second track from Afterthought, a vibrant summer jam, anticipatory of warm weather and good times to come. After minutes of uproarious applause and chantings of ‘Encore!’ the quartet returned to perform a thrilling cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’, closing out the night with a spicy take on a classic.
Ochoa once remarked that musicians are always chasing the dragon of perfect performance flow – an uncanny feeling of effortless playing, of notes falling into place, of teasing the best sound from your instrument – and one seldom experienced. I think she caught that dragon last night.
You can catch Ochoa performing live at an upcoming show (schedule here), or, if you’re a millenial like me, you can stream her album on Spotify/Apple Music endlessly to create the perfect ambiance for your frenetic social-media crazed existence. Support your local artists, people!