Deep in the heart of America’s Creole culture is the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. As the largest city in the home state of Creole in America, New Orleans has long been the centre of exchange between numerous cultures that call America home. For decades the city has been known by a number of nicknames, but none more fitting than the “Big Easy”.
New Orleans has a special place in American history and Creole culture as, “a musical hotbed”. Jazz was born here, Zydeco rings out from shops throughout the French Quarter, and brass bands blaring trombones and trumpets still roam the streets entertaining tourists and residents alike. It was into this amazing musical heritage that one of music’s brightest young stars was born.
Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty, is a talented young musician who calls the Big Easy home. As part of a new generation of jazz and rock musicians, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue (his band’s official name) is bringing a new flare to the genre and helping bridge the gap to a new generation of music fans.
Trombone Shorty, Born to Play
It seems that fate determined Trombone Shorty’s future for him long before he was even conceived. Shorty was born on 2 January 1986 in the New Orleans, LA neighbourhood of Treme. The neighbourhood of Treme is one of the oldest in New Orleans and in the city’s early history, the area was the primary home for free people of colour in New Orleans.
Historically, Treme has been a simmering cauldron in a city known as one of America’s biggest cultural melting pots. Here, free people of colour lived and worked side by side and eventually turned Treme into the home of African-American and Creole culture in the city. The neighbourhood also became the home of big brass bands.
Born into this environment, it was inevitable that Trombone Shorty would grow up to become an amazing musician in his own right. From a very early age he showed an ability to play the trombone and trumpet. At the very young age of six he was already participating as a band leader in brass bands, even performing with his trumpet at the 1991 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival with the Carlsberg Brass Band from Denmark.
By the time he had reached his teen years, Trombone Shorty was a member of the Stooges Brass Band and touring internationally as a guest with artists like Lenny Kravitz. His profile rose so quickly that at just 19 years old, he was part of a group of musicians from New Orleans that recorded a benefit album entitledSing Me Back Home to aid those from his hometown after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
Albums and Accolades
Few young artists have produced as many albums as Trombone Shorty by his age, nor enjoyed the level of success he has found from his music early on. He has released nine studio albums from his first release in 2002 (Trombone Shorty’s Swingin’ Gate) to his most recent release in 2013 (Say That to Say This).
It was Shorty’s seventh album, Backatown (2010), which garnered the greatest attention for the band and launched the group’s profile on a greater path. The title of Backatown was in honor of his hometown neighbourhood of Treme, which was historically referred to in New Orleans as the “back of town”.
The album was the group’s first smash hit and received numerous accolades including a 2011 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, ranked in the Top 5 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz charts for 18 months (including 10 weeks at #1), and even featured on countless “Best of 2010” countdowns including iTunes and Billboard.
Following up on the success of Backatown, the group released For True in late 2011 and the album met with similar success and permanently elevated the status of Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. The resulting success of the two albums led to high profile gigs and guest spots with other groups.
A Growing Profile at Home and Abroad
As Trombone Shorty’s reputation in the music community, not just contemporary jazz, grew so too did the opportunities to perform. He has appeared alongside the likes of the Zac Brown Band, Lenny Kravitz, and Dave Matthews Band. In the July 2012 issue of Billboard magazine, Zac Brown said “Trombone Shorty is one of the best entertainers out there, period. He’s an incredible horn player”.
He has toured internationally in the UK, across mainland Europe, Russia, Singapore, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and of course throughout North America. In 2012, his profile grew to the point where not once, but twice Trombone Shorty performed in front of U.S. President Barack Obama.
Following a 7 January performance at Carnegie Hall as a special guest of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s 50th anniversary, he performed at the White House in front of President Obama on 21 February as part of America’s Black History Month celebration. Later that year, on 14 June he performed again in front of the president at actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s home in New York as part of an Obama For America event.
Always Thinking of NOLA
It would be easy for a young man just 28 years old to allow success to go to his head, but Trombone Shorty instead uses his success to benefit children and youth across New Orleans. The Trombone Shorty Foundation began as the Andrews’ Horns for Schools project.
The original project was a collaboration between Shorty and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to help New Orleans schools acquire quality musical instruments for music courses. Many of the original instruments in the program were donated by Shorty himself. Eventually, the program grew into the Trombone Shorty Foundation.
In 2012, the foundation gained a new partner in New Orleans-based Tulane University. Together with the university, the foundation created an after school academy to mentor high school musicians throughout the city, to reach for their biggest dreams. The mission of the foundation speaks volumes to Trombone Shorty’s connection to his hometown and culture. Its stated goal is to “preserve and perpetuate the unique musical culture of New Orleans by passing down its traditions to future generations of musicians”.