Trombone Shorty blows for 'Treme'
New Orleans native brings the funk to Atlanta Jazz Festival
Being born and raised in New Orleans' musical Treme neighborhood gave Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews a schooling in brassy funk. But as a sideman on Lenny Kravitz's '05 world tour, Andrews plugged into a new level of projection by watching Kravitz reach thousands of people per night. "I just soaked that in and came back, and whenever I jump on the stage now I play like I'm playing in an arena, reaching for that type of energy," Andrews says.
Equally proficient on trumpet and trombone, the 24-year-old musician raises the dead and pays homage to the living, channeling the lips of Louis Armstrong on trumpet and former James Brown bandleader Fred Wesley on bone. In a typical set, Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song" gets stripped of its calypso roots and recoated with funk, the "Day--O" chorus transformed into a James Brown shout-out, before Andrews resurrects Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," his muted horn adding a jazzy feel to the soul classic.
With his band Orleans Avenue, Andrews captures the bygone feel of his Treme neighborhood on his latest release, Backatown. "Treme is the heart of the city. It is the New Orleans sound," Andrews says, despite Hurricane Katrina's decimation of the neighborhood, which knocked the population of musicians down from 85 percent to about 10 percent. But Andrews kicks it back up with a bunch of brassy funk-jazz originals and his snaky rendition of Allen Toussaint's "On Your Way Down, featuring Toussaint on piano.
He's also rejuvenating his neighborhood's image by appearing in the new HBO series "Treme," which also features Toussaint, Dr. John, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and other New Orleans musicians. "It's scripted, its acting, but I get to be myself," Andrews says. For his Atlanta Jazz Festival appearance, Andrews jokes that there'll be no sitting allowed at his show. "Gonna be some high-energy funk rock, a big party like Mardi Gras year-round."
Although he's been trained in jazz since the age of 4, Andrews is the unofficial funk ambassador for his city and his neighborhood. "I just want to bring the music to the rest of the world and put smiles on people's faces," he says. "I've been given a gift to share with the world and that's what I want to do."