New Orleans native Trombone Shorty or Troy Andrews began his career as a bandleader at the early age of six, toured internationally at age 12, and spent his teens playing with various brass bands throughout New Orleans and touring worldwide with Lenny Kravitz.
In fact there’s this breathtaking image of him as a little boy in a parade full of adults playing a trombone thats probably double his size. For Troy this is normal.
‘In New Orleans we have a lot of musical families!’ he says. ‘If I hadn’t played music I would have been an outcast. My brothers are musicians, my cousins, my grandfather; they would all be round the house playing music and jamming and I’d be playing sounds. When music is that dominant you are always interested.’
Music is the heartbeat. I think it’s unique because it’s a place where we celebrate and have fun. We celebrate life, and everyone here just says Hello to me when I walk down the street.
You can drive down any street and see people playing music. Every five blocks there is some type of music being created.
I can’t put what that feels like into words, but I am so happy to be part of that. Nothing takes them down here. No matter how poorly people are doing, New Orleans is the realest place you will have ever been. Here life is life and we want to celebrate it. Everyone here has a story!’
Troy fronts Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, a funk/rock/jazz/hip-hop band. His newest album, Say That to This was released in 2013 and features funk/jazz elements of New Orleans.
‘Basically what I am trying to communicate is the good times playing in the streets and all the rhythms that I have heard, from my playing with Dr John (a family friend), the street parades, and everything that I am falling into now – you can hear the timeline through my music – I am all about setting a new tone, to be part of the current day.
That’s part of my goal, just doing my interpretations of what I have learned from other musicians.’
One of Trombone Shorty’s greatest teachers has been Dr John. Not everyone has one of music’s greats sitting on their porch.
‘Dr John was a great friend of my grandfather Jessie; he is like an uncle. He comes over to my grandmother’s house and I have a chance to play with him. He tells me a lot of stories about my family members before I was born. No-one approaches music like him – he embodies New Orleans even with his language; sometimes he says stuff and I don’t know what he’s said!’
The trombone is an unlikely instrument even for the most likely musician. ‘It’s one of the most difficult instruments to play,’ says Troy. ‘You look at a guitar and you can put your finger on a fret.
‘With a trombone it was always challenging because there is a slide and you have to be very accurate to not create a strange sound. For me that is intriguing and I guess when I am playing that’s where the magic is – when it becomes spiritual, when my body, my hand and my mind become one.
‘Music is its own language.’
Trombone Shorty is a featured musician along with Orleans Avenue at Bluesfest this year. For tickets and program information go to www.bluesfest.com.au.