Trombone Shorty stands tall among Orleans greats
Playing at Clyde Theatre with local DJs opening
Troy Andrews is the singer, multi-instrumentalist, and bandleader known as Trombone Shorty.
Born into a family of New Orleans musical nobility and mentored by members of the Meters and the Neville Brothers, it’s no surprise he’s been a professional stage performer since the age of 6, starting on trombone, which must have been longer than he was tall at the time.
Growing up in the famous neighborhood of Tremé, the historic center of New Orleans’ Creole brass band musical culture, he’s still called Shorty even though he’s 36 years old and 6 feet tall. The latest in the long line of famous jazz and funk musicians from there, Andrews is carrying the torch for the new generation. He stands astride the New Orleans music scene like a modern-day Colossus.
Since June, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue have been headlining the traveling festival Voodoo Threauxdown, featuring half a dozen traditional New Orleans funk bands. They have played dozens of dates for outdoor audiences across the U.S.
Their show at The Clyde Theatre on Aug. 19 will be a rare opportunity to see them in a smaller, more intimate setting. Now pardon us for the cliché, but coming out of those huge amphitheaters, we predict Shorty and company are going to blow the roof off The Clyde.
Opening the show (hopefully before the roof gets damaged) will be veteran Fort Wayne favorites DJ Barrage and DJ Polaris of Music Lovers’ Lounge. It’s a standing-room show, and you better believe the audience won’t stop moving.
Plethora of influences
Andrews has accomplished so much that we don’t have space to recount a fraction of it.
At 6, he was featured at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, playing with blues elder statesman Bo Diddley.
As a youth, while playing with his own brass bands, mostly on tuba, he sat in with members of the Neville Brothers and studied at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts with classmate Jon Batiste. In 2005, he went on the road in the horn section of Lenny Kravitz’s band. Kravitz became another mentor that helped shape Andrews’ emerging sound.
Along the way, his talents were so unique that he worked with all sorts of artists who made room for his trombone in their music, including Jeff Beck, U2, Green Day, Foo Fighters, Usher, Pharrell Williams, Bruno Mars, and pop producer Mark Ronson. He’s played with country artists the Zac Brown Band and Dierks Bentley and been welcomed into the jam band scene with Warren Hayes and Gov’t Mule. He has performed at the White House no less than five times, been featured on Sesame Street, and used his trombone to dub in the voices of the parents in recent Peanuts cartoons. If that’s not enough, his children’s book Trombone Shorty about his childhood was a best-seller and won a Caldecott award.
Andrews sounds like nobody but himself, but he channels so many influences. Singing, he can prowl the stage with the intensity of D’Angelo, or croon falsetto after Curtis Mayfield, but he rocks with the muscularity of the man he calls his uncle, Kravitz.
And of course, there’s his trombone and trumpet. He can put the trombone in the context of traditional New Orleans second line, which is always just a step or two away from the spirit of all of his songs.
He can lift his trumpet up to the breezy heights of Earth, Wind and Fire. He can also drop the trombone into hard funk in a way that’s entirely him.
Since 2010, Andrews has released four hit albums, with Lifted being his most recent on April 29.
Blue Note Records President Don Was spoke with Andrews about Lifted, and you can find the interview on YouTube. Talking about Lifted, they unpacked the elements of the Orleans Avenue sound. In the single “Come Back,” Was said that it “has a foot in ’70s R&B, but sounds like a completely modern record,” to which Andrews said, “We have a lot of great influences and we respect everyone that came before us. We study it and we learn from it.
“We’re very influenced by hip-hop music, which we grew up playing and being around in New Orleans … so we hear those rhythms, and I’ve been able to work with different people in every type of setting of New Orleans music.
“You can hear the drum patterns under ‘Come Back’ with the funky guitar with the wah pedal and everything that we have. You can hear all of those influences connecting.”
Later, about the song “Lie to Me,” Was said, “It opens with a kind of New Orleans tribal chant, but the melody’s rooted in modern R&B, although at its core, it’s a rock n’ roll record.”
In response, Andrews said, “It’s a combination of different elements, but it’s really a beat that drives that style of music … the beat is almost like second line music and go-go music. It’s a very strong foundation which makes that music very significant to the culture.”
It’s a hip-hop style called bounce that came out of the ’80s in New Orleans.
“You can’t run from that type of rhythm,” Andrews said.
Across these four albums and live performances across the globe, Trombone Shorty is not a solo act. Orleans Avenue is his legendarily tight 10-piece band that’s been backing him for years. Every member gets a moment in the spotlight.
Out front are psychedelic funk guitarists Pete Murano and Josh Connelly, who bang out riffs that recall anything from AC/DC to Parliament-Funkadelic.
Dan Oestreicher on the baritone saxophone and BK Jackson on tenor sax bring the “heavy low brass.” Brandon Butler plays keyboards and DJ Raymond plays bass guitar.
Two drummers, Alvin Ford Jr. and Joey Peebles, handily span the range from the Meters’ funk to Kravitz-style hard rock. Nell Simmons and Tracci Lee provide the vocal harmonies that keep the music connected to R&B.
All in all, you would not expect a band of New Orleans traditionalists to rock this hard, but man, they sure do. Shorty and company bring something for everybody who likes to rock.