Trombone Shorty expands reach outside New Orleans

'I'm still playing a lot of shows. But instead of playing a lot of shows in New Orleans, we're playing a lot of shows around the world,' says Troy Andrews (Trombone Shorty).

Photo by Kirk Edwards; courtesy Shore Fire Media.

"I'm still playing a lot of shows. But instead of playing a lot of shows in New Orleans, we're playing a lot of shows around the world," says Troy Andrews (Trombone Shorty).

Troy Andrews, better known to music fans as the New Orleans multi-instrument prodigy Trombone Shorty, answers the phone sounding dazed and tired.

"I think I'm in Toledo, Ohio," he says when quizzed about his whereabouts. "I'm still on the bus in my bunk, so I don't know where we're stopped at this moment. But we're supposed to be in Toledo."

For much of his remarkable 18-year music career, such confusion was never an issue for the 25-year-old Andrews. With few exceptions, he knew on any given night he would be playing in the clubs and on the festival stages of his beloved New Orleans. Born into a musical family (his grandfather was '60s New Orleans R&B singer Jesse Hill), Andrews began playing at age 4. By age 7 he was touring Europe with his brother, trumpeter James Andrews.

While attending the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, in his teens Andrews found himself sharing the stage with Wynton Marsalis, Green Day, U2 and Lenny Kravitz, who took him on his 2005 world tour.

But with the release last year of his Grammy-nominated national debut, Backatown, Andrews rose to a new level. Once a prized secret of New Orleans music lovers, the record brought him a new audience. It didn't hurt that its release coincided with the debut of HBO's New Orleans-set drama "Tremè," in which Andrews has become a regularly featured player.

The newfound attention didn't make him rich or get him more gigs, he says, since he's been averaging about 200 shows annually for years; it's just lengthened his commute.

"I'm still playing a lot of shows," says Andrews, who will be on the road the rest of the year with a stop at Minglewood Hall Friday. "But instead of playing a lot of shows in New Orleans, we're playing a lot of shows around the world."

Even with the demanding tour itinerary, Andrews and his band, the six-piece Orleans Avenue, recently found time to record a follow-up to Backatown.

Released last month, For True, which debuted at the top of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart, comes just a little over a year later. Despite being a familiar blend of jazz, R&B, funk and hip-hop, the new record is not a sequel to the earlier record. Instead, Andrews says, the band wanted to explore what impact the past year on the road has had on them.

"We were anxious to get back in the studio because we've grown so much," he says of the recording process, which was done sporadically during brief breaks from the road. "We wanted to see what we could create since we've toured for a year straight since the last record. We didn't go in there saying we wanted to do something different. We wanted to just go in there and hopefully have an impact in the music and see if we could do a little bit better than we did before."

Though Andrews -- who sings and plays trumpet, organ, piano, drums and keyboards on the album, (sometimes all on the same track) -- and Orleans Avenue make most of the music on For True, a stellar roster of guest artists also perform. Among those sitting in are members of the Neville Brothers, Galactic, and the Rebirth Brass Band, bounce rapper 5th Ward Weebie, R&B singer Ledisi, legendary rock guitarists Warren Haynes and Jeff Beck, Kid Rock and Kravitz.

"I've played with each and every one of them over the years," Andrews says of the guests. "I'm a big fan of all of them. I've got all of their music on my iPod. For me it was just exciting to have some of my musical heroes on my album."

Andrews still has plenty of names left on his wish list of future collaborators, with Prince, Stevie Wonder and B.B. King at the top of the list. But for now he's focused on getting back home.

"We're just trying to get through this tour," says Andrews. "I miss home, everything about it -- the music, the food, my family. When you're gone as much as we are you miss a lot of things, but it's exciting when we get to go home because it's a big homecoming. When we go back we just do everything we can in a short amount of time that we can't do on the road. Hang out with my grandmother, let her make us some red beans and rice, watch a couple of Saints games. Just everything that New Orleans has to offer us, and then we get back on the road."

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Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Kids These Days

8 p.m. Friday at Minglewood Hall, 1555 Madison Ave. Tickets: $20 in advance, $22 at the door. Advance tickets available at the box office and online at minglewoodhall.com. For more information, call 312-6058.

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© 2011 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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