12:03pm

Thu October 10, 2013
Music News

A Young Torchbearer Lights The Way For New Orleans Music Students

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 6:33 pm

In New Orleans, it's cool to be in the high school band — especially when Trombone Shorty shows up in the band room.

The brass player and bandleader recently paid a visit to New Orleans' Warren Easton High School to work with band members. It's part of his work with the Trombone Shorty Foundation, a music education initiative.

"[Trombone Shorty] is, without a doubt, the role model for the next generation right now," says Bill Taylor, the foundation's executive director.

In the school's hallway, Taylor explains that the Trombone Shorty Foundation teams up with Tulane University to give promising young musicians a deeper skill set.

"New Orleans is filled with a lot of musical talent," Taylor says. "Sometimes the opportunities are lacking to take it to the next level. [Trombone Shorty] is an example of a musician — there are many over the years, Harry Connick [Jr.], the Marsalises — that have really broken through to that next level."

The new record from Trombone Shorty, now 27, is in the Top 5 on Billboard's jazz chart. But it's hard to confine Say That to Say This to any one genre: The album takes a romp from rock and funk to jazz and soul, all rooted in the styles of his native New Orleans. Now Shorty, born Troy Andrews, is trying to keep the New Orleans sound evolving by engaging the city's young talent.

Andrews grew up in New Orleans' Tremé neighborhood, surrounded by musicians. His older brother James is a noted trumpet player and bandleader. His grandfather Jesse Hill was an R&B singer known for the New Orleans classic "Ooh Poo Pah Doo." From the time he was about 4, Andrews was playing trumpet and trombone in the streets and onstage with icons like Bo Diddley, Dr. John and The Neville Brothers. By age 18, he was on tour backing Lenny Kravitz.

Say That To Say This, his third major solo album, pays homage to all those influences — in the local vernacular.

" 'Say that to say this' — it's basically what we say in New Orleans," he says. "If you talking to somebody and in the middle of the conversation they say, 'I say that to say this,' it's just basically making a long story short. And I just wanted to make a long story short — put as much music as I can in a compact situation like that."

Andrews likens the different styles on the record to the slang you might pick up in different neighborhoods. And he has a name for it: "supafunkrock."

"But we just going to let it be music, you know," he says. "The music is so New Orleans, we don't know what to call it. It's just New Orleans music. The same way we live here, you know. Food — got gumbo, got red beans. Some type of way some of that stuff meet up on the same plate. And that's what we do. We just leave it open."

Trombone Shorty pulled off a bit of a local miracle by reuniting legendary funk band The Meters. He got the group together in the studio for the first time since 1977 for a cover of its single "Be My Lady."

"I think The Meters are like The Beatles to us in New Orleans, you know," Andrews says. "So to be able to pull that off and have them mutually excited and for them to come together for that, it was just a dream come true for me."

Trombone Shorty replaced The Neville Brothers as the traditional closing act at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest this year. It's a symbolic passing of the torch — festival producer Quint Davis noted the move by declaring that "the future is now."

Though he's been saturated in the local music scene since birth, Andrews' versatility and technique were honed in his high school days at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts — the local performing-arts magnet high school. There, he teamed with some of the players in his Orleans Avenue band. That's part of his motivation to work with aspiring musicians today.

Between sessions with the Warren Easton band, he encourages individual students to form their own bands and stretch themselves by sitting in with a Latin or R&B group. Saxophone player Jasmine Batiste was excited to tell him what she'd learned at a recent jazz camp.

"It was talking about Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith and all those people ... from the early part of jazz and going right up," Batiste says.

"You always want to learn, you know," Andrews replies. "But I think what some of us get caught at is we learn about those people and we get obsessed with what they're doing, and we try to re-create that. And that's when everything stops."

Use the early players like a dictionary, he tells the students, but find your own sound and push it forward.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Trombone Shorty is a virtuoso. His new record, "Say That To Say This" is in the top five in Billboard's jazz chart. But his music defies any simple label or genre.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Or...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: The album is a romp through rock and funk, jazz and soul, all rooted in his native New Orleans' style. Now, Trombone Shorty, born Troy Andrews, is trying to keep the New Orleans sound evolving by engaging the city's young talent. NPR's Debbie Elliot caught up with Andrews at his former high school.

DEBBIE ELLIOT, BYLINE: In New Orleans, it's cool to be in the high school band, especially when Trombone Shorty shows up in the band room.

TROMBONE SHORTY: You gotta breathe - you gotta breathe from your stomach 'cause your neck is jumping.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: No, that sounds good.

SHORTY: I know, but that's not right.

ELLIOT: He's showing junior jazz Henry proper trumpet technique.

SHORTY: Play notes like this. Keep going. That's where it's at.

ELLIOT: Troy Andrews, now 27, is back at Warren Easton High School to work with band members as part of the Trombone Shorty Foundation, a music education initiative directed by Bill Taylor.

BILL TAYLOR: Hi is, without a doubt, I think, the role model for the next generation right now.

ELLIOT: In the school hallway, Taylor says the Trombone Shorty Foundation teams with Tulane University to give promising young musicians a deeper skill set.

TAYLOR: New Orleans is filled with a lot of musical talent, you know. Sometimes the opportunities are lacking to take it to the next level. You know, Troy is an example of a musician. There are many over the years, Harry Connick and the Marsalises, that have really broken through to that next level.

ELLIOT: Trombone Shorty takes the pulpit in the single "Fire and Brimstone."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHORTY: (Singing) So there's music in my bones, in my heart and in my soul, until I'm through and God takes me home. Everything that comes out of my trombone. Fire and brimstone.

ELLIOT: Troy Andrews grew up in New Orleans' Treme neighborhood, surrounded by musicians. His older brother James is a noted jazz trumpet player and bandleader. His grandfather, Jesse Hill, was a rhythm & blues singer known for the New Orleans classic "Ooh Poo Pah Doo." From the time he was about 4, Andrews was playing trumpet and trombone in the streets and onstage with icons like Bo Diddley, Dr. John and The Neville Brothers.

By 18, he was on tour backing Lenny Kravitz. His third national solo album, "Say That To Say This," pays homage to all those influences in the local vernacular.

SHORTY: "Say That to Say This," it's basically what we say in New Orleans. If you talking to somebody and in the middle of the conversation they say, I say that to say this, it's just basically making a long story short. And I just wanted to make a long story short, just put as much music as I can in a compact situation like that.

ELLIOT: Andrews likens the different styles on the record to the slang you might pick up in different neighborhoods. And he has a name for it.

SHORTY: Supafunkrock, yeah, but we just gonna let it be music, you know,

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHORTY: (Singing) Some people drive, some people honk. Some got the blues, but I play the funk. I play the funk. I play the funk.

The music is so New Orleans that we don't know what to call it. It's just New Orleans music. The same way we live here, you know. Food, got gumbo, got red beans. Some type of way some of that stuff meet up on the same plate. And that's what we do. So, we just leave it open, you know.

ELLIOT: Trombone Shorty pulled off a bit of a local miracle by reuniting legendary funk band The Meters, getting them together in the studio for the first time since 1977 for this cover of their single "Be My Lady."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Be my lady, be my lady, be my lady, drive me crazy, be my sweetness, my completeness, be my lover, spare no other, be my lady, be my baby.

SHORTY: I think The Meters are like The Beatles to us in New Orleans, you know. So to be able to pull that off and have them mutually excited and for them to come together for that, it was just a dream come true for me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ELLIOT: Trombone Shorty replaced The Neville Brothers as the traditional closing act at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest this year, a symbolic passing of the torch after which festival producer Quint Davis declared the future is now. Though saturated from birth in the local music scene, Andrews' versatility and technique were honed in his high school days at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

There, he teamed with some of the players in his Orleans Avenue band. That's part of his motivation, to work with aspiring musicians today.

SHORTY: Play that note ba-da. Lower. Yeah.

ELLIOT: Between sessions with the Warren Easton band, he encourages individual students to form their own bands and stretch themselves by sitting in with a Latin or an R&B group.

SHORTY: B flat.

ELLIOT: Saxophone player Jasmine Batiste was excited to tell him what she'd learned at a recent jazz camp.

JASMINE BATISTE: He just was talking about Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith and all those people who started from the early part of jazz and going right up.

SHORTY: Yeah, you always want to learn, you know. But I think what some of us get caught at is that we learn about those people and we get obsessed with what they're doing, and we try to re-create that. And that's when everything stops.

ELLIOT: Use the early players like a dictionary, he tells them, but find your own sound and push it forward.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ELLIOT: Debbie Elliot, NPR News.

SIEGEL: We'd like to know what you like about the program or what you don't like. You can write to us at NPR.org. Click on the word Contact at the bottom of the page, at the very bottom of the page. It's small and a little faint, but it's actually there.

BLOCK: Very small, lower left, in gray, says Contact. If you want to hear something again or catch up on what you missed, it's all online at NPR.org/AllThingsConsidered.

SIEGEL: And to follow our program and us on Twitter, I'm Robert Siegel, sometimes @RSiegel47.

BLOCK: I'm @NPRMelissaBlock. Our co-host Audie Cornish is @NPRAudie.

SIEGEL: And the show is @NPRATC. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.