If you haven’t heard of “Trombone Shorty” by now, or heard him play live or otherwise, let’s say you have been missing out. Don’t feel too bad if that is the case because until now, we’ve been missing out too. But not anymore.
Curious enough, we found out about Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews through a children’s book instead of the traditional way, through his music. His autobiographical book, titled after his nickname, is a 2016 Caldecott Medal honor book, and while reviewing it and learning about Troy’s musical trajectory, a need raised to download one of Troy’s CD's to hear him play. For you see, Troy’s story is so magnificent that it inspires you to dig more. And this is what we learn.
Troy was a New Orleans’s local star from early childhood, a prodigy whose ability on trombone and trumpet put him in the highest echelons of the city’s live performers. People came to see him play even when the trombone seemed bigger than him.
“When I was very young, my neighborhood friends and I would pretend that we were like the brass bands that would parade down our streets, and because we couldn’t afford instruments, we really did make them out of anything we could. The box from a twelve-pack of soda could be fastened around the neck with Mardi Gras beads to become a drum, and pencils became drumsticks. I used to hoist an old Big Wheel bicycle over my shoulders and pretend it was a tuba. Empty bottles became horn and wind instruments.”
Thankfully, he got his first trombone when he was four years old and by age six, he was leading his own band.
This photo was taken at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1991 with the "Carlsberg Brass Band" from Denmark and young "Trombone Shorty" Troy Andrews on trombone.
“In Treme, music was everywhere,” Andrews writes, “from church, to the street, to my very own house. My grandfather, Jessie Hill, was a musician and my brother James was a musician, and I wanted to be just like them. There were people always coming and going from my house, but music was the thing we had in common. No matter how tough things got, listening to music always made me feel better.”
Aside from his performances on the streets of Treme and the French Quarter, Andrews first came to public light when Bo Diddley heard him playing in the crowd during a show at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
“Who’s that playing out there?” Diddley barked. When he found out it was a kid half the size of his trombone, he brought Shorty onstage to play with his band.
About his fast ascend in the Jazz scene, Troy says: “I played around town with my friends for many years and together we tried to soak in everything we could about the incredible musical traditions of New Orleans. I felt lucky that the previous generations of New Orleans musicians wanted to share their craft with me. It was my job to carry on the musical heritage.”
The music industry has changed drastically since Troy Andrews was a boy, with live performances now counting much more for an artist’s stature than recordings as the industry has imploded under the weight of streaming and free downloads. For a while, he played for Lenny Kravitz and tour with him for a couple of years all over the world.
Lenny Kravitz and Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Amsterdam.
But since then, he has his own band, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, and they play mainly at Jazz Festivals, including the Montreal Jazz Festival where they have played several times to spectacular effect. “His Jazz Fest–closing performances, in which he has assumed the mantle once reserved for the Neville Brothers, are iconic.” says reporter John Swenson in an article for Off Beat Magazine.
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Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue
Through his book and his performances, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews wants children to feel his same passion for music and to excel at it. Troy not only plays the trombone, trumpet, piano, and drums, but also sings. He shares these wise words for any budding musician:
“The only reason I succeeded as a musician was because I practiced every day. Practicing was easy to do because I loved playing music so much. I knew that if I just kept playing, good things would happen to me. I felt it in my bones.”
At age 30 Andrews is no longer a child phenomenon, but his growth as a musician has never slowed. “He is a fully realized artist with a career of unlimited possibilities still there for him, an international star who nevertheless continues to be a regular presence on the New Orleans scene”, concludes Swenson.
Trombone Shorty and his band at the 2015 Jazz Fezz
Now hear him play LIVE. You will find your feet stomping with joy.
IF YOU WANT MORE ABOUT THIS FABULOUS ARTIST