Best of the Beat Awards celebrated Trombone Shorty, Alex Chilton

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Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews had a huge 2010. In yet another affirmation, he dominated the Best of the Beat Awards last weekend. He took home five trophies, including the prestigious album and artist of the year awards.

The Best of the Beats took over the sprawling Generations Hall complex in the Warehouse District on Friday, Jan. 28. Hundreds of people crowded into the main room as winners in a range of local music categories were revealed. The general public voted on the awards via OffBeat magazine’s Web site.

Andrews’ national debut, “Backatown,” was also named best R&B/funk album. That hyphenated genre is a better fit for “Backatown” than “contemporary jazz,” which is how the Grammy Awards categorized it (but hey, a Grammy is a Grammy; if he wins, he likely won’t mind the categorization).

Others who took home Best of the Beat trophies included Rotary Downs, the Happy Talk Band, the Honey Island Swamp Band, Anders Osborne, Dr. John, Big Freedia, Kermit Ruffins, Cindy Scott, Irvin Mayfield, Gal Holiday & the Honky Tonk Revue, the Pine Leaf Boys and Beausoleil.

Steve Earle showed up to collect the “Heartbeat Award” for HBO’s “Treme” series, which was recognized for its efforts to accurately depict the music culture of New Orleans. The contemporary country singer has a recurring role on the series; a song he wrote for the show, “This City,” is up for a Grammy.

The dispensing of awards only accounted for part of Friday night’s event. Following Deacon John’s salute to legendary producer and songwriter Dave Bartholomew – Irma Thomas was a special guest, and Bartholomew was on hand as well – an eclectic posse paid tribute to the late Alex Chilton. The Box Tops and Big Star frontman lived in Treme for more than 20 years; he passed away last March.

Iguanas drummer Doug Garrison and bassist Rene Coman, who toured with Chilton for several years, anchored a house band that included guitarist Alex McMurray and Memphis saxophonist Jim Spake. They banged out a raucous “Bangkok” and “Lies,” a song written by the late Keith Keller, owner of Chez Flames studio and a Chilton confidant. Other tribute highlights included Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner’s charge through Big Star’s “September Gurls” and Susan Cowsill and Theresa Andersson harmonizing on the Box Tops’ “Soul Deep.”

Later that night, an ailing Ivan Neville – he felt too sick to drive to New Orleans from his home in Austin, so caught a last-minute flight instead – fronted DumpstaPhunk for a tight set of funk/R&B. Tony Hall, one of two bassists in the band, temporarily switched to electric guitar, peeling off stinging lead lines. Newer songs in the DumpstaPhunk catalog are worthy of the band’s formidable chops.

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