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Portrait of Trombone Shorty (english version)

Trombone Shorty
Portrait of Trombone Shorty (english version)

Portrait of Trombone Shorty before his first big gig in Paris, Bataclan, on February 29th. If you've never seen New Orleans' best entertainer on stage before, read why you can't miss that show.

Trombone Shorty
Portrait of Trombone Shorty (english version)

A piece of friendly advice to any musician who might cross the path of Troy Andrews (aka Trombone Shorty) one day in a festival: avoid playing AFTER him, because there’ll be nothing left.

May 2010, Boule Noire, Paris. NOLA's wunderkind has just started a stunning version of St. James’ Infirmary to round off his first official gig in Paris - where ear buds were recommended. Earlier that night, he sang a Marvin Gaye tune, danced like James Brown and Michael Jackson, imitated Louis Armstrong, conducted his band and improvised the soundpainting way, blowing his trumpet and trombone as if he was playing the last show on earth. On stage, Trombone Shorty is a formidable entertainer capable of turning his unique stamina in a powerful sound. A sound that literally petrifies the audience. There's something of a middleweight boxer in this man when he plays his trombone, thrusting the slide out at the crowd like a straight-arm punch.

Was the audience that night aware of watching a 24-year-old living legend? A prodigy hailed by the entire NOLA music scene? A musician who counts Jeff Beck, Wynton Marsalis and Bono among his diehard fans?

Troy Andrews was born in Treme, the very heart of black New Orleans, into a musical dynasty. His grandfather, Jessie Hill, is a respected singer and songwriter who has penned songs for Willie Nelson, Ike and Tina Turner, and Sonny and Cher. Troy's close relatives are all in brass bands (his cousin Glen David Andrews sings and plays in the New Birth Brass Band). His older brother James plays the trumpet, so obviously Troy joined NOLA’s famous second lines as soon as he was able to walk and grab some brass. And he didn’t grab the least bulky instrument: he fell for the trombone at age 5. And since he was shorter than his instrument, you can see where he got his nickname.

Shorty became a street musician and played trombone in no end of parades and funerals. Soon he added the trumpet to his other skills, and he's perfectly at ease with both. Brass specialists consider that the two instruments are so technically different that it’s impossible to master them both. But Trombone Shorty's magical lips and physical ability give the lie to the cognoscenti. Troy also plays sousaphone, drums, bass and keyboards. And since his mother often listened to Marvin Gaye at home, he started to sing. Anyway, young Troy Andrews is a talented street and studio musician, he earns money doing what he loves, and the future seems bright. He could have been happy with this situation but he's chosen another way. This avid perfectionist decided to add to his unique experience and study music from the technical side. Like the Marsalis brothers before him, he joined the prestigious New Orleans Centre for Creative Arts (Nocca). Among his fellow students he chose the crème de la crème to form his Orleans Avenue band, a bunch of musicians who share a common love for traditional NOLA music, but also Nine Inch Nails, hip-hop, funk and rock.

Trombone Shorty ~ Backatown by verveforecast

Christened "supafunkrock", this explosive cocktail can be found on Backatown, the first Trombone Shorty album on a major label (Verve, 2010). It features famous guests and a heavyweight producer (Galactic's Ben Ellman). Mardi Gras Indian rhythms clash with rock riffs, brass explosion and funky bass. Trombone Shorty sings on the record and has invited first-class vocalists (Allen Toussaint, Marc Broussard and Lenny Kravitz), but the instrumentals are far more convincing to us.

For True (Verve, 2011) followed one year later and displayed the best and the worst of Trombone Shorty despite another solid gold cast, including Ledisi, Stanton Moore, Ivan & Cyril Neville, Warren Haynes, The Rebirth Brass Band, Ben Ellman, Jeff Beck and Kid Rock. Worst are those overproduced songs (mostly songs) with corny heavy Californian guitars. Best are the tracks where Trombone Shorty sticks to core NOLA music. After two albums, we can say that Trombone Shorty is a wild animal on stage but seems under duress in the studio. Is this the sign of a major telling him what has to be done to reach the charts' top? Maybe.

That's why you can't miss Trombone Shorty on stage. You’ll see a sharp athlete, a man who does 200 press-ups a day, who doesn't drink or smoke. And can play for hours with the same incredible stamina. Jessie Hill, Troy Andrews' grandfather was a friend of Dr. John. He used to work with him during their common californian exile. Together, they have composed Qualified, one of the major tracks of the album In The Right Place (1974). 34 years later Dr. John invites Trombone Shorty to play on City that Care Forgot, the first important post-Katrina album. The two meet again in HBO TV show TREME (first season). All the New Orleans' magic lies here, in this everlasting transmission between old and the new, tradition and modernity. And Trombone Shorty is just the brightest evidence of a city that's never been so alive.

(Nicolas Ragonneau, February 2012)

Links :
Trombone Shorty : official | facebook | myspace | twitter
Nicolas Ragonneau

Nicolas Ragonneau

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