Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty, was on a mission to give rock fans a taste of his eclectic mix of jazz, funk, and hip-hop. But his European tour opening for the Foo Fighters was sadly cut short due to the recent attacks in Paris.
He met Dave Grohl through his Sonic Highways project and the two hit it off. They even shared the stage for a rousing rendition of “This Is A Call” at Voodoo Fest last year. The tour was in Italy when the attacks unfolded. They were about to head to France when they got the news.
“It was really weird,” describes Andrews, “We didn’t witness anything, but we felt the energy from the people of Europe. Everybody was just a little down."
Despite the distance between Andrews and the Bataclan, the tragic events in Paris sill hit close to home for him. “That could have easily been my band,” he says, “It could have been me. We played [the Bataclan] two or three years ago. We did a big show there. It’s just really weird to think about. That could have been us onstage.
“My prayers go out to [Eagles of Death Metal]. It’s just weird to think that something like that would happen at a music event, but it just goes to show that it can be anywhere. It was a little nerve-wracking to hear that we were going to play a show that night, but they cancelled that show when we arrived at the venue. … If we were going to play, I was going to go onstage and continue to do what I love to do and continue to bring people together and put some smiles on some faces.”
Andrews is also well-versed in the way live music can help people heal in the face of tragedy. “That’s what we do here in New Orleans,” he explains, “That’s the heartbeat to the city. It can help a lot of people forget about what they’re going through for a certain amount of time and just dance, have fun, and take your mind off things. Music is definitely a healing power.”
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Andrews grew up in Tremé, the same neighborhood as Louis Armstrong, and has been honing his craft since he was four. He even played himself in a recurring role on the critically acclaimed HBO series that bears his community’s name. He was very close with the influential jazz artist Allen Toussaint, joining the legions of legendary musicians that paid tribute to him last week.
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Andrews and his band Orleans Avenue is a unique voice in the world of jazz. They are winning over listeners at festivals. “I love playing festivals,” he declares, “In the last ten years, most of my fan base probably came from me playing all types of festivals a round the world and letting them discover who I was. Being at a festival allows me to be a fan of other bands. Some of my favorite bands are playing on another stage. We get to meet people and they get to walk by and get pulled in by the sound.”
Recently, he used his trombone to give a voice to the voiceless: the adults from the beloved comic strip Peanuts, brought to life in the new digital adaptation The Peanuts Movie. The popular late night talk show musical guest and NPR mainstay’s embouchure was given a workout as he actually attempted to make his instrument talk to Charlie Brown, Lucy, and Linus. “They would give me a line, and I would just imitate the line on the trombone,” he says, “It was a little difficult at first because it’s not in music. It’s just sound effects. My mind wanted me to correct it, but it was fun. It was just imitating a human voice.”'
He is also giving back to his neighborhood through his charitable foundation, which encourages students to form their own bands. Perhaps even more importantly, he is making playing the trombone look cool. The clumsy-looking brass instrument usually plays back-up to the trumpet or the saxophone, but Andrews is changing all that.
He recalls an encounter he had with a band teacher in Cleveland, Ohio. “He thanked me for doing what I was doing because some of his kids get laughed at for playing in the band, especially the trombone,” Andrews says, “He wanted to thank me personally for attempting to make it cooler and giving the kids someone to look up to. That has always stuck with me. In school, playing football and basketball is sometimes cooler than playing with the band, depending on what instrument you play. I had no idea I was having that kind of impact on kids all around the world.”
Trombone Shorty is scheduled to play Saturday, November 28, at the Downtown Chandler Concert Series.