Trombone Shorty: A Young Torchbearer Lights The Way For New Orleans Music Students At 27, bandleader Trombone Shorty is already an icon in his hometown. So he's giving back: Through his own foundation, the "supafunkrock" brass player is nurturing even younger talent in local schools.
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A Young Torchbearer Lights The Way For New Orleans Music Students

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A Young Torchbearer Lights The Way For New Orleans Music Students

A Young Torchbearer Lights The Way For New Orleans Music Students

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


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.




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."


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,


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."


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.


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.


ELLIOT: Debbie Elliot, NPR News.

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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.

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