Graham Reid | | 7 min read
Troy Andrews – better known as
Trombone Shorty – is one of the rising stars of the New Orleans
jazz scene. But he had a head start, he was playing trombone in
local brass bands when he was six.
He attended the same arts college as Wynton and Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jnr, got out and played with
rock bands (Lenny Kravitz, was with U2 and Green Day when they played
the re-opening of the New Orleans Superdome in 2006), sits in with numerous local bands including Galactic, and his album
Backatown topped the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart for nine weeks
He has appeared on magazine covers, in
episodes of the television series Treme (filmed in the
Katrina-damaged suburb of that name in New Orleans) and has been a
star performer at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festivals for
He is also coming to the New Zealand National Jazz Festival in Tauranga at Easter, the only New Zealand date on an Australasian tour.
But we catch you at home briefly, Troy?
Yes, I just flew in about two hours
That's right. We opened a show for them
in the Birmingham Theatre in Alabama.
You have a profile in New Zealand right
now not just because of the forthcoming festival but because the Jeff
Beck Rock'n'Roll Party live DVD has you on it. In his liner notes he said you just
happened to be in New York when the concert were scheduled, did you
know any of those musicians when the call came?
I knew some of his band before that,
the keyboard player [Jason Rebello] and Mr Beck himself, but I didn't
know some of the guys on the stage.
But you play jazz and the stage is
where you get to know people best.
(Laughs) Oh definitely.
If we look at the long history of jazz
we can see how it changed in terms of influences from popular music:
there was post-bop, post-Beatles and so on. You are post-Marsalis in
way. What does that mean in terms of your style, what do you as a
younger man bring?
Just being in New Orleans where the
horns are very important, and this is a traditional instrument, is a
factor. And we are just taking it to different levels because we are
influenced by rock music and hip-hop. I'm 25 and I'm influenced by
the music of my generation and I'm trying to find some way to
incorporate those influences into my music.
There are no boundaries with us and we
approach different styles of music and put it into one gumbo pot.
It has always seemed to me New Orleans
musicians are more open to that, more so than perhaps in other cities.
Even in New York there is a core of players who are insistent jazz be
done in a certain way.
Yeah that's true, New Orleans is that melting pot and we all have connections to different styles, whether it be jamming with Dr John, the Neville Brothers or the Marsalis brothers. We all play with different bands. We might get a call to play with the Neville Brothers or Allen Toussaint and that has a big influence on what we are doing. We're not close-minded about what music should be, we just want to make music and put smiles on people's faces. At the end of the day we just want to have a big party.
Let's talk about putting smiles on faces because times are still very tough in New Orleans. I was talking recently to Papa Mali and he was saying just how many musicians had left and how the culture was being scattered. Is that fair observation from your perspective?
Treme is a different place since the
storm. It's coming along but it's different from the Treme we once
knew. A lot of people haven't come back, or different people came in
and bought property and gouged the rent and some people just can't
pay that. It's coming back though, a lot of people are still gone but
the true New Orleaneans are working hard every day to get our city
back to where it once was.
I see progress. This year was one of
the biggest mardi-gras we've had since pre-Katrina. New Orleans is
one of those places where, even if you live somewhere else, you just
can't shake it.
You've never been tempted to live
anywhere else because this is the place that nourishes you?
Exactly. I travel so much but I gotta get back to New Orleans even if it is just for one day because I have to get my soul together. And musically I have to be part of the growth and feed off everybody else, because there is so much to be taught and learned here. It's just a wonderful place.
There is no other city in the world
where you can have the Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint, the Meters,
Dr John and the Marsalis family and I can call them up and just go
jam with them all in one night if they were playing. As a student of
music and a fan, those people are my heroes who have done so much to
create the sound of New Orleans and that is a pleasure in itself, to
have these legendary people here.
I've never had a bad time there, nor a
Oh no, I'm thinking about a good meal
Because it is Friday. What does the
We just flew in and I had to go to my
alma mater to go teach a class, tomorrow we play a French Quarter
festival, then Sunday we fly to play in Tampa in Florida and we'll
come back Monday and play a private show.
You are a busy musician but you also do
film and television. You have had a part in Treme which is a
television series we haven't seen here yet.
Yes, I've done abut three or four
episodes. I play myself and its a fun thing. It's hard work and a
different level of discipline to be an actor, and i'm not really an
actor. The producer spent an enormous amount of time here just
scoping out the city because New Orleans people would say if you want
to portray our culture and image then you have to have it very
authentic or you'll get run out of the city. But they went to the
real musicians and consulted with them and they are doing a great
thing. The Rebirth Brass Band is on there and you can literally walk
out and catch the same thing happening on the street.
Let me talk about your background. You
couldn't have done anything but play music, could you?
That's right. My brother James is a
trumpet player and my grandfather was [songwriter] Jesse Hill and my
cousins are in all types of brass bands around town. If hadn't played
music I might have been the odd one.
What was the attraction of trombone
when you were a kid?
It was really just a fun instrument and
at the time my brother was very influenced by Louis Armstrong and Louis always had a trombone player sidekick. My brother made me that.
On top of that it was probably one of the only instruments in the
house that worked. But I fell in love with it. It reminded me of
those whistles you have at birthday parties.
Outside of New Orleans, in jazz there
weren't a lot of people playing trombone in the Seventies and
Eighties. I remember seeing Robin Eubanks in New York maybe 15 years
ago and it struck me what was possible on the instrument in a
Right. It's one of the hardest instruments because a trumpet, piano, bass, saxophone or whatever you can just press the note and get it. But the trombone is a slide so you have to be very accurate and that makes it challenging.
different sounds and growls is amazing to me. That's the thing other
instruments can't do and that's one of the beauties of the trombone.
Which we will hear soon enough. You are
bringing your whole band down here for the Tauranga Jazz Festival.
Yes, I'm bringing my entire band – and we are going to bring a big party.
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