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Since the release of their Grammy-nominated self-titled debut album in 2010, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue have won hordes of new fans while performing nonstop across five continents.
Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews has God-given talent, natural charisma and a relentless drive to bridge music’s past and future. His third outing for Verve Records, Say That To Say This (Sept. 10), was co-produced by Andrews and kindred spirit Raphael Saadiq, and sounds like nothing else out there, as Andrews and his longtime band, Orleans Avenue – guitarist Pete Murano, bassist Mike Ballard and drummer Joey Peebles – continue their natural musical evolution. In a very real sense, the torch is passed from one great New Orleans band to another on the new album, which features the first new studio recording from the original members of the legendary Meters in 36 years, as they revisit their 1977 classic ‘Be My Lady,’ with Andrews singing lead and playing horns.
The bandleader and multi-instrumentalist describes Say That To Say This as ‘really funky, like James Brown mixed with The Meters and Neville Brothers, with what I do on top, and we have a bit of R&B from Raphael’s side. All the guys in my band are big, big fans of his, so this is a real dream come true for us. And he’s a fan of New Orleans brass band music, which I didn’t know beforehand. Just listening to his music and the direction he’s going in now, I thought that he would be perfect to work with us. He’s a great producer, but he’s also a musician, so he was able to get in there, jam with us and take us to some different places. And we were able to take him to some different places too.’
Saadiq doesn’t just co-produce, he becomes a member of the band, playing a variety of instruments and contributing backing vocals; he also had a hand in writing three songs. Says Andrews of Saadiq: ‘What drew me to him was his knowledge of what came before and his imagination of where the music can move forward to. That’s the same way I think, so it worked out very well.”
‘We felt a certain amount of pressure, because we knew we were working with one of the great young producers and musicians,’ Andrews acknowledges. ‘But it was good pressure, and Raphael being in the room with us inspired us to step up as writers and players. We spent an initial two or three weeks in the studio in L.A. working out the tracks, and I think having that stretch of uninterrupted time really played a big part in how creative we were able to get. On the last two records we were so busy touring that we would go in for three or four days and then go out for a week, so we had to switch on and off between the stage mentality and being creative in the studio. So this time, knowing we were gonna be in the studio for two or three weeks straight, we reached down deep and were able to do some things that we wouldn’t have come up with if we’d been on a tight schedule. It allowed us to be very free.’
Of ‘Fire & Brimstone,’ the lead single, Andrews notes, ‘The beat I was hearing was an old-school hip-hop thing. I can’t remember what we were listening to when we came up with the idea, it might’ve been something by Dr. Dre, Easy E or Run-D.M.C., but when I heard it, I said, ‘Joey, let’s do a beat like that underneath the track so I can do some intricate things on top.’ That’s what we did, and it came out with this swampy, voodoo feel.’
The title, Andrews explains, is a common New Orleans expression that essentially means ‘To make a long story short,’ serving as a wonderfully on-point description of the album and of Trombone Shorty’s music in general. ‘This record is a direct expression of everything we hear, everything we’ve seen and everything we’ve been through musically,’ Andrews assets. ‘We’re just making a long story short.’
Andrews’ previous projects include 2010′s Grammy-nominated Backatown and his sophomore effort, For True (2011), which spent 12 weeks atop Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart. In the past few years alone, Andrews has appeared on recent recordings by an eclectic assortment of artists ranging from Zac Brown to Eric Clapton to Rod Stewart and Cee Lo Green, while taking the time to initiate a mentoring program at Tulane University via his Trombone Shorty Foundation. He’s also been featured on the covers of Downbeat and Jazziz magazines, as well as on Conan, The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Austin City Limits and in a recurring role on the hit HBO series Treme. The band was also chosen to play the closing set at the 2013 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, a huge honor in the world of true music lovers.
Good things continue to happen for Trombone Shorty, thanks to his virtuosity, his dedication, and his ability to move people. That he pursues his passion with such humility and unpretentiousness makes his still-unfolding story as compelling as the music he’s making along the way.