‘Trombone Shorty’ closes Snowmass concert series | AspenTimes.com

‘Trombone Shorty’ closes Snowmass concert series

Stewart OksenhornAspen Times Weekly
Jane RicheyNew Orleans brass player Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews performs Thursday, Aug. 6, in the final concert of the Snowmass Free Music Series.

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – There has emerged, especially since Hurricane Katrina, a vocal contingent of New Orleans musicians who have insisted that the city that proclaims itself the birthplace of jazz was an empty shell of a music scene – even before the storm hit. Gigs for local players are scarce, pay is low, and the musicians are treated as if they are a dime a dozen, the argument goes. The case against New Orleans was stated most stridently and publicly by Cyril Neville of the iconic New Orleans funk band the Neville Brothers, in a 2005 article in CounterPunch magazine titled “Why I’m Not Going Back to New Orleans”: “The situation for musicians was a joke. People thought there was a New Orleans music scene – there wasn’t. You worked two times a year: Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest.”On the brighter side of the street is Troy Andrews. The horn player known as “Trombone Shorty” still lives in the city’s Treme neighborhood, where he grew up. The district, adjacent to the French Quarter, is home to Congo Square, where 200 years ago, slaves were allowed to gather and play the African rhythms that eventually evolved into jazz. Surrounding Congo Square is Louis Armstrong Park, created in tribute to the Treme native who became jazz’s first, greatest and most influential star.To hear Andrews describe it, the New Orleans music scene is not something out of a history book. As a kid, he witnessed the vibrancy of the music from his front door – brass bands and jazz funerals and well-known players were literally just around the corner. Take into consideration that Andrews’ childhood didn’t take place all that long ago – he is just 23 – and his take counters the idea that the New Orleans music scene is only a myth.”I could walk around the corner and see Rebirth jamming,” said Andrews, referring to the Rebirth Brass Band, one of the handful of New Orleans brass groups that tours nationally. “I could see Kermit Ruffins” – an Armstrong-style singer and trumpeter – “barbecuing, a second-line parade at 4 in the morning. I remember walking to school in the morning and seeing a jazz funeral. That had a major impact, to grow up around my idols, to have them just be there. It was like a musical heaven.” That view is backed up in his music: Andrews’ last studio recording, 2005’s “Orleans and Claiborne,” opens with the title track, a tribute to Treme’s major intersection and a joyous blast of music that leaves no doubt how Andrews sees his home ‘hood.As much as he sings the praises of his hometown, Andrews has expanded his musical vision beyond the sounds of traditional New Orleans brass. In Orleans Avenue, the septet that he formed right out of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, he and his mates start with New Orleans brass and then take it way out. On “Orleans and Claiborne,” the music can become vocal R&B, absorb hip-hop elements, get super-funky, and journey to Latin regions. And Orleans Avenue has spread itself out even more in the four years since the album was released. Andrews spent much of 2005-’07 playing in Lenny Kravitz’s band. The experience, he said, “kind of changed everything,” and added more of a rock ‘n’ roll element to his sound, creating a style he calls “super funk rock.””I’m definitely doing things with the trombone that people haven’t seen before. Like stage-diving,” said Andrews, as he was traveling from Glenwood Springs to Boulder. “I’m always listening to, learning and taking from different people. You could easily put a guitar player in my place, and it would be the same thing.”But it was a trombone that was put in Andrews’ hands, and for a very specific purpose. His brother James was a trumpet player, and knew that, going back to Armstrong, every New Orleans trumpeter had a trombone-playing sidekick. “So James wanted me as his sidekick,” said Andrews.And never mind that James was 17 years older than Troy, and that Troy was only 4 when James determined that his little brother would also be his bandmate. At the beginning, Andrews’ arms couldn’t reach far enough to make all the trombone positions.”But you could tell I had some kind of passion for it. At 7, I had a couple of tunes under my belt,” he said. Enough tunes, it turns out, to join his brother’s band, becoming a touring musician while simultaneously entering second grade.For high school, Andrews attended the New Orleans Creative Center for the Arts, where he studied jazz and classical, and picked up a dozen or so instruments. (In addition to the trombone, he also performs on trumpet, and sings.) But jazz and classical scared away his friends – “They’d think, ‘Oh, that’s jazz, that’s old people’s music,'” he said – and it didn’t have the effect on listeners that his brother’s band had. Andrews’ desire was, and remains, to make people move.”It was very funky and dance-oriented. It was fun and uptempo and contemporary,” he said of the music he played with his brother.Leading his own band, Andrews has found his own ways to shake the dance floor. Often it doesn’t sound much like what he heard back in New Orleans.”In my early teens I realized I didn’t have to play what I was taught,” he said. “I had different musical ambitions and didn’t have to stick with what the horn is normally known for. I could try AC/DC, rock, hip-hop. The type of person I am, every music I hear has an impact on me. I just wanted to keep up that kind of fun, dancing, that I knew from the Treme neighborhood.”stewart@aspentimes.com

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