“Freaky” Pete Murano On Context

February 3, 2012

Pete Murano gets his freak on at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
The biggest buzz band in New Orleans is Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, which runs the gamut from traditional jazz to searing rock. Leader Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews became a star via his breakthrough 2010 release Backatown. His new CD, For True, features cameos by Jeff Beck and Warren Haynes. The guitar chair in Orleans Avenue is a hot seat, and Shorty’s player of choice is “Freaky” Pete Murano. —Jimmy Leslie

How does the creative process flow in Orleans Avenue?
Troy writes most of the material on keyboards, and it’s my job to translate the harmonic information to the band because we don’t have an actual keyboard player. Shorty plays either trombone or trumpet and sings. The rest of the lineup is baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone, drums, percussion, and bass. I mostly wind up working the material into one of three contexts.

I apply what I call the “chank” to songs on the funky side. I generally use 9th chord voicings that land in the middle of the fretboard, and “chank” out a percussive rhythm. Leo’s Nocentelli’s intro on the Meters’ “People Say” might be the ultimate example of chank because, well, anytime you can get an entire roomful of people dancing to the rhythm guitar figure by itself, that’s some solid rhythm playing.

The second is a rock-oriented context that I call the “chunk,” where I provide power chords or riffs. On “Hurricane Season” and “Suburbia” from Backatown, I lock with the drums and bass to provide the kind of rocking groove people don’t normally associate with a horn-driven ensemble. Sometimes the horns will double my guitar riffs, and at other times I’ll run lines with the horn section, which is interesting from a phrasing perspective because they don’t adhere to fretboard patterns, and they have to leave spaces to breathe. I usually wind up in the saxophone range—above the baritone and below the trumpet.

What’s the third context you utilize regularly?
Some songs call for extended chords in a fully realized chord progression. “Fallin’” goes Cm7, Fm7, Abmaj7, to G7, which I’ll often play as a minor II-V: D half-diminished into G(alt) and then right back into C.

What gear best allows you to cover all that ground?
I dig the Mesa/Boogie Lone Star. I use one channel clean, and dial in the Boogie distortion sound I love on the other. I set them both at the same volume so I can use them interchangeably as a backdrop for a soloist. For my own solos, I’ll step on a Fulltone Fat-Boost. I play a Les Paul because I can get a good chank sound with both pickups in combination, and nobody can argue with a Les Paul’s rock tone.

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