Since the release of their Grammy-nominated 2010 debut album, Backatown, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue have grown creatively while winning hordes of new fans performing nonstop on five continents. Their latest album, For True, offers substantive proof of their explosive growth, further refining the signature sound Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews has dubbed "Supafunkrock."
"There was excitement from everywhere," says Andrews (who's now 27) of the experience on the road and how it fed into the creation of For True. "We did over 200 shows in the last year and a half, and every night we allowed the music to take us over. Musically and creatively, we wanted to shoot for some different things."
The band - Mike Ballard on bass, Pete Murano on guitar, Joey Peebles on drums, Dan Oestreicher on baritone sax and Tim McFatter on tenor sax - stirs together old-school jazz, funk and soul, laced with hard-rock power chords and hip-hop beats, and they've added some tangy new ingredients on For True as they keep pushing the envelope, exploring new musical territory.
"We never sat down and really thought about concepts and what we wanted our music to sound like," Andrews explains. "It's just that, over the years, we allowed each one of the band members to bring their influences and taste in music into our music. Anything we hear or are influenced by, it naturally comes out in what we're trying to do. It's just our sound, and it happened naturally."
Andrews wrote or co-wrote all 14 tracks on the new album, including collaborating with the legendary Lamont Dozier on "Encore," while this time playing as much trumpet as trombone, as well as organ, drums, piano, keys, synth bass and percussion. Indeed, he played every part on the swaying, Latin-tinged "Unc." He's also come into his own as a singer, honoring the hallowed legacy of the great soul men of the 1960s and '70s. Like its predecessor, the new album turns on a rare combination of virtuosity and high-energy, party-down intensity.
Among the special guests are longtime NOLA cohorts like Ivan and Cyril Neville (who bring their trademark sound to "Nervis") ; Galactic's Ben Ellman, reprising his producer's role on Backatown (percussion on opener "Buckjump," harmonica on "Big 12") and Stanton Moore (drumming on "Lagniappe Part 1" and "Part 2") ; bounce rapper 5th Ward Weebie and the Rebirth Brass Band (who team up on "Buckjump") and Troy's longtime friend Charles Smith (who adds percussion to the same track).
"On the last record, we just basically did it with my band," Andrews points out, "but we've got a lot of New Orleans people on this new record - the music just called for it. The Rebirth Brass Band, these are all people that helped me grow in my career and teach me different things. And 5th Ward Weebie, who's one of the lead voices in the bounce community, we're like brothers. I'm excited to have those people on there, because they bring a taste of where I come from and where I'm going."
The album also bears the fruit of more recent relationships. Lenny Kravitz (who plays bass on "Roses"), has the longest-standing bond with Andrews, discovering the then-teenage prodigy in 2005 and taking him on tour with his band. Calling Andrews "a genius player," Kravitz says, "He's got nothing but personality, he plays his ass off and he's a beautiful human being." Kid Rock (whose vocal is featured on "Mrs. Orleans") came out to see Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue at an outdoor show in NOLA, and a month later Troy joined the star onstage at Jazz Fest. Andrews played with Warren Haynes (whose eruptive solo further heats up "Encore") at his annual benefit and again at the guitarist's Mahalia Jackson Theatre all-star event during the 2011 Jazz Fest. Ledisi (who sings on "Then There Was You"), met Troy at the 2010 Grammys, later came out to see him in New Orleans and was later featured in a segment for the landmark "Red Hot + New Orleans" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, for which Andrews served as musical director.
His relationship with Jeff Beck (check out his blistering solo on "Do to Me") has blossomed since the guitar legend came to Troy's late-night post-Jazz Fest show at Tipitina's in 2010. "I was completely blown away," Beck said of his Tip's epiphany in Mojo magazine's "The Best Thing I've Heard All Year" special feature in January. "The crowd went wild. Troy and his band have just supported me on some U. K. dates. A sensational group of musicians. Trombone Shorty is one to watch." That led Beck to ask Andrews to play on Jeff Beck's "Rock 'N' Roll Party Honoring Les Paul," and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue joined Beck for his U. K. tour last fall.
"I'm fans of all those people," says Andrews. "I met them over the last year or two of touring, and I've been wanting to work with all of those guys and Ledisi. It's like this musical community. It's not like I reached out to them because I needed some big names on the record. I'm really interested in their music and their talents. So for me it's a dream come true to work with some of my favorite artists. Whatever they need me to do, I'll be there."
Since Backatown's release, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue have toured nonstop in North America, the U. K., Brazil, Japan, Europe and Australia. In December of 2010, Andrews drew accolades as musical director of "Red Hot + New Orleans" at BAM. The sensational two-night run inspired The New York Times senior music critic Jon Pareles to assert, "Trombone Shorty had clearly set out to present New Orleans as a city whose glory days aren't over... it was a signal that the city's music would push ahead."
Yes, Andrews has made quite an impression on the critics. "Trombone Shorty is so ready for his close-up," The New York Times reviewer Nate Chinen wrote, describing the young virtuoso as "a native prodigy destined for breakout success." The San Francisco Chronicle's Joel Selvin hailed him as "New Orleans' brightest new star in a generation." Rolling Stone's Will Hermes raved that "Backatown is both deeply rooted and culturally omnivorous." And the Washington Post's Mike Joyce described one live performance as "a near-deafening, funk-charged blast of percussion, brass, reeds and guitar distortion that might have knocked the crowd sideways had there been any room to move."
TSOA's performances at and during the New Orleans Jazz Fest are legendary. In one day, Troy sat in for a set of free jazz honoring a recently passed mentor. From there he sat in with Kid Rock. Then to the Gospel Tent for a featured slot with cousin Glenn David Andrews before literally running back to the main stage to close the Festival as a special guest of the Neville Brothers. His respect across a broad spectrum and his musical versatility is further evidenced by his performance resumé, playing at events as diverse as Bonnaroo, the Playboy Jazz Festival at Hollywood Bowl, the Montreal, Montreux and Monterey jazz fests, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco, Austin City Limits, Fuji Rock in Japan, Philadelphia Folk Fest, Jam Cruise, assorted Blues Festivals and even a Reggae Festival in Germany. The band spent last summer crisscrossing Europe to perform at festivals from Spain to Slovakia. Andrews has also done a ton of TV, appearing on The Late Show With David Letterman, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Good Morning America, Tavis Smiley, NFL Kickoff (joining Dave Matthews Band) and a recurring role on the hit HBO series Tremé, on which he played himself in a recurring role. Along with appearing on Beck's Les Paul tribute, he's been a featured guest musician on the latest releases from Eric Clapton, Zac Brown Band, Rod Stewart, Kravitz, and Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars.
Andrews hails from the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans' 6th Ward, getting his nickname at four years old when he was observed by his older brother James marching in a street parade wielding a trombone twice as long as the kid was high. Troy started early, learning how to play drums and what he remembers as "the world's smallest trumpet" at the age of three. By the time he reached six, this prodigy was playing trumpet and trombone in a jazz band led by his older brother James, himself a trumpet player of local renown who has been called "Satchmo of the Ghetto."
Not long afterward, Troy formed his own band with some other musically inclined kids from Tremé, and they became regulars at Jackson Square, with dreams of following in the footsteps of his brother James and Rebirth Brass Band, learning and carrying on the New Orleans tradition. While not only carrying on that tradition and expanding its boundaries, Troy has lent a generous helping hand to the next generation as well, having given longstanding support to the city's renowned Roots of Music program. Troy was also recently honored by being named the youngest member of the NOCCA Foundation board - the foundation behind New Orleans' Center for the Creative Arts where Troy and several of his band members studied and began collaborating. He's also gearing up his own new foundation aimed at making sure that talented younger players with limited resources can get quality instruments to play. Watch for much more news on that front, as well as a new CD, currently planned for an April 2013 release.