Here come the horns: Trombone Shorty to perform at Riverwalk Center
IF YOU GO
What: Trombone Shorty and New Orleans Avenue
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6. Doors open at 7.
Where: Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave., Breckenridge
Cost: $45 to $50. Visit BreckMusic.org to purchase tickets.
BRECKENRIDGE — Troy Andrews is no ordinary trombonist. He’s been playing the instrument since he was 4 — an act that lent itself to his stage name Trombone Shorty — and became a bandleader at 6. Over the years, he’s played with Lenny Kravitz, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, Dierks Bentley and other acts.
One group Andrews has been around practically his whole life is The Neville Brothers, who were his honorary uncles since he was about 10, and he toured with Cyril Neville just last year. Founding member Art Neville, also known for his pioneering funk work with The Meters, died July 22.
“It’s a tough loss for us because that’s my family,” Andrews said. “I grew up listening to them, I grew up playing with them, and it was just an unbelievable experience to be able to be with a family and a band that helped create the sound — that I’m able to stand on their shoulders because of what they created. … I’m very blessed and honored to be able to have that time with such a legendary group of musicians.”
Andrews has even acted in titles like the HBO series “Treme” and more recently, 2015’s “The Peanuts Movie.” Yes, the signature muted trombone sound made when adults and teachers talk in the Schulz’s story is Andrews mimicking spoken dialogue.
“It was a lot of fun, and I was very honored,” Andrews said about the recording session. “When I was younger, I remembered watching that and hearing it and being able to recognize that that was the instrument that I play. … They had a guy in there and he would say the sentence to me, and I would repeat it on the trombone the same way he articulated it. If he went high, I went high. If he went low, I went low.”
Now Andrews is bringing his talents back to the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge.
“It’s definitely a challenge coming from New Orleans, which is like 6 feet below sea level,” Andrews said in reference to Breckenridge’s 9,600-foot elevation. “I’m running out of air singing and dancing. There’s never really a break for me. And my horn, for some reason when it gets that high, it sounds so thin it makes me feel like I have a leak in the horn.”
Welcome to shortyville
What led him down this path was growing up in a house full of musicians in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, where music was literally everywhere. Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lace, the Treme Brass Band, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Rebirth Brass Band — which included some of Andrews’ own family — were all just blocks away.
“There was as much music inside as outside,” Andrews said. “I had all of these great New Orleans legends surrounding me and helping me out. I think if I didn’t play music, I would have been an outcast of the family.”
The neighborhood itself is only one block removed from the iconic French Quarter, where Andrews, his friends and cousins would perform in Jackson Square as the 5 O’clock Band. Named because that’s when the kids would arrive after finishing up schoolwork, they performed out of admiration of their older relatives and imitated their funky sounds. Andrews started with the trombone because his trumpet-playing brother James wanted a sidekick and gave the instrument to Troy. That led to Troy teaching himself the tuba, drums, trumpet and whatever else was needed to complete their burgeoning band.
“We’d have like the Big Wheel bikes, and I’d turn it upside down, and it’ll look like a sousaphone or tuba, and we’d hum up the street,” Andrews said. “We’d go to the corner store, and they’d put out the Coca-Cola boxes or whatever, and we’d go around with our water bottles and hit the best one that had the best bass drum sound as we marched. We were just really imitating everything.”
Simultaneously touring in Europe with James, roughly 20 years his senior, Troy received firsthand education in the streets and studios of the Crescent City, along with studying at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. On one hand, it was difficult for Andrews to see the older musicians busk night and day in the square for a living, but on the other, they provided sage advice and history.
“We were very excited to play music that made us move, but they sat us down and made us learn the traditional style of New Orleans music in order for us to know and get to the sound that I have now. They taught me the lineage and everything. We couldn’t pay for those lessons.”
Having that priceless experience is part of the reason Andrews started The Trombone Shorty Foundation to teach kids about the music industry. Local students learn about the history of New Orleans music and perform it for themselves in unique after-school programs. What started as giving away instruments has transformed to teaching students about recording, managing, marketing and other aspects about the business — along with fieldtrips to places like Sony Records — so that they have a chance at success.
“The music business is always changing, but I wanted the kids to understand that when they get to certain areas of their career, this won’t be completely foreign to them,” Andrews said. “I just want to give them the foundation to know that this exists because I know a lot of people get lost.”
The foundation also helps keep the arts scene alive, even if schools slash departments with budget cuts. “When they get cut, they don’t understand that maybe these music and arts are keeping these children interested in staying in school. If they don’t have it, then we might get a lot more dropouts.”
His passion for youths is why Andrews’ childhood career was translated into two children’s books, “Trombone Shorty” and “The 5 O’clock Band” — the former of which was recently incorporated into the daily activities for the Breckenridge Music Festival’s KidFest. He doesn’t have any other media in the works aside from a new album, but he is interested in the idea of an animated series rather than making the books a trilogy.
Coming to Breckenridge in the flesh, Andrews hopes “people have their dancing shoes because we love to play and have a great time. It’s like a great Mardi Gras party coming.”
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