Trombone Shorty – New Orleans music past, present & future

He grew up in the tradition but has charted his own musical path.

Today is Troy Andrews’ 34th birthday — a millennial musician, singer, songwriter and children’s book author who has been able to amass a considerable play list that represents the past, present and, I hope, the future of New Orleans music. Today it’s all about Trombone Shorty on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa. (Recording of the show below).

According to the Trombone Shorty website, Andrews got his nickname when he picked up his instrument at four. His older brother, noted trumpeter James Andrews, gave him the tag. “My parents pushed me toward trombone because they didn’t need another trumpet player.”

Trombone Shorty with his band Orleans Avenue closing out the 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — an annual tradition. (Photo by Tim Sweeney)

The moment was memorialized in a legendary 1990 photo (with a great story to go with it) from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Bo Diddley was performing on stage when the crowd deposited before him a four-year-old boy barely hanging on to a trombone. When Trombone Shorty blew his horn on that stage with Diddley’s mouth agape, it was tantamount to King Arthur pulling a sword out of a stone in terms of creating a New Orleans music legend.

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (Photo by Tim Sweeney)

On today’s show, you’ll only hear three songs directly attributed to Troy Andrews — which is the limit that federal law places on me when I stream a show. However, every song you’ll hear until the last one is a song in which he performs. This means the show includes Dr. John, Galactic, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Allen Toussaint, Lenny Kravitz, Mindi Abair, Rebirth Brass Band, Los Hombres Calientes, The Soul Rebels, Hot 8 Brass Band, Stanton Moore, Lakou Mizik and the To Be Continued Brass Band. As well as his own band Orleans Avenue.

Andrews has not forgotten his community now that he’s an international star. He founded the Trombone Shorty Foundation which provides professional support to budding musicians in New Orleans and he’s the author of two children’s books that details stories from his childhood. The self-titled first book tells the story of how he got his nickname and received a Caldecott Honor Book award.

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Gumbo YaYa's Top 10 New Orleans Records of 2019

This year’s top 10 selections run a range of New Orleans music with jazz, brass band, blues, R&B, Latin rhythms and African beats. And for lagniappe, you’ll meet my sons who extended their Christmas visit home to include hanging out with me in the studio when we aired this show on Boxing Day. (Just click the sideways arrow below to get started.)

Me with Riley and Devlin in the KAOS air studio.

Today’s show features selections from the 10 records I enjoyed playing the most this year. But the real treat for me was being in the studio with my son’s Riley and Devlin. As always, I edited this version of the program by removing KAOS announcements. So some of the freewheeling conversation is lost but I did manage to keep some of our chatter in. The show also airs in Bellingham on community radio station KMRE on Friday nights.

The show starts with “World Without Music by the To Be Continued Brass Band. Below are brief descriptions of my favorite records for this year.

To Be Continued Brass Band – TBC II – This band has a history that IS New Orleans. And they seem to be making it on their own terms. No label. No Website. No liner notes or anything but a logo on their CD. Lots of friends help out though including J’Wan Boudreaux (Cha Wa), Glen David Andrews, DJ Action Jackson and Erion Williams (Soul Rebels).

Kid Eggplant And the Melatauns – Big Trouble in Little Chalmette – Can you say “Party Record!” Listen to your vegetables, they’re good for you. I can’t believe my luck in stumbling across this record. It’s a creative mix of R&B, doo-wop, blues slide (with frog sounds), and retro 80’s rocks (“snip snip”).

Ecirb Muller’s Twisted Dixie – What Had Happened Was. . . – Dr. Brice Miller, of Mahogany Brass Band fame, has created a time machine and a mythical savant to transport the hipness of Louis Armstrong and New Orleans’ early jazz days into the funkified vibe of today. Each song is introduced with a story using the opener “What Had Happened Was. .” I’m so delighted to introduce you to one of the greatest . . .

Smoking Time Jazz Club – Contrapuntal Stomp – The band lives up to its name with 16 tracks of traditional jazz numbers that can heat up the dance floor. This journeymen band of talented musicians do more than revive; they reinvigorate. If the only thing this record did was introduce me to Earl “Snakehips” Tucker, it would still be on my top 10. (if you go to the link, be sure to catch at least half of the two-minute video of this amazing dancer.)

Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – Released by Smithsonian Folkways in honor of the festival’s 50th year, this five CD set offers a historic sampling of the diverse music styles that have graced the many Jazz Fest stages over the years – focusing on the local artists who have made his festival so exceptional. A lot of care was taken to showcase the sweep of talent that has graced the dozen or more stages of the festival during the last half century.

Leyla McCalla – The Capitalist -Her third release, proficient in Haitian creole, French, banjo, guitar and cello, she continues the city’s tradition of creatively blending and bending musical genres while continuing to creatively community her message of social and economic justice. Plus she’s got a wonderful voice.

Craig Klein sings and performs with Bonerama.

Bonerama – Bonerama Plays Zeppelin – Zeppelin with New Orleans funk and rhythms. It’s a reverent yet original adaptation of the band’s hits except with trombones as the lead voice and Matt Perrine’s magical sousaphone handling the bass line.  Be sure to catch “Heartbreaker” where Perrine defies gravity with his instrument.

Alexey Marti – Mundo – This Havana-born and New Orleans-based percussionist second release showcases his 15 original songs which include samba, bossa nova, ballad, and salsa — demonstrating new depths to this highly respected and in-demand musician. His record features musicians from New York, Spain and Cuba and flows smoothly through your ears like a morning cup of cafecito.

Bamboula 2000 – Cuba to Congo Square – For a quarter century, this band has been keeping the spirit of Congo Square alive. If you’re searching for the connection between New Orleans jazz rhythms and Africa, this latest release will help you find it it with rhythm’s from djembe, congas, talking drums, bata, atumpan, shekere, dun dun, and fontonfrom. 

Smoky Greenwell – Blues and the Power of Peace – Holding down the blues end of this year’s list is journeymen New Orleans musician Smoky Greenwell. This is the perfect apology gift for going ballistic on your Trump-voting relative during the holidays. The latest record by this New Orleans blues harmonica (and saxophone) player strikes enough of a conciliatory note without surrendering a single political point. Get out and vote, baby!