With New Orleans roots, Trombone Shorty heads into Steamboat territory
June 19, 2014
Steamboat Springs — With each show he performs, the rhythm starts to happen and an infectious beat grabs hold of every listener.
Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty, can't explain this feeling but attributes his success to his roots in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans. There, the music culture was ingrained in him, and he performs with an air of classy bravado, natural charm and charisma to celebrate music in all of its forms.
"I think when people love music, they want to have a great time no matter where they are," he said by phone Thursday afternoon as he and members of his band were driving through Aspen. "They have the chance to just dance and forget about whatever else is going on. They can just celebrate the music in that moment."
Bringing an influx of musical backgrounds together, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue will be the kickoff event of this year’s Steamboat Springs Free Summer Concert Series with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Howelsen Hill. Bill Smith, a versatile electronica-jazz-funk band, will open the show. Embracing culture and heritage, the two bands surely will deliver a striking show that delivers a cross-section of rock, jazz, funk and R&B, perfect for Steamboat's crowd of eclectic musical tastes.
About four years ago, Trombone Shorty played at the Ghost Ranch to a crowd of maybe 50 people. Now, he has made waves in the music world performing at the 56th annual Grammy Awards with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, Madonna and Queen Latifah. The band has also made guest appearances on “Conan,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” In 2012, he performed at the White House in honor of Black History Month with music royalty such as Mick Jagger, B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Booker T. Jones, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks and Gary Clark Jr.
Establishing his name at age 6, Trombone Shorty began his career taking after his brother James, marching in a street parade and playing a trombone that was taller than he was.
"I grew up in a musical family. Everybody had a different instrument to play," he said as he reminisced about picking up his first instrument when he was 4 years old. "My brother already had the trumpet, and the other brother played the tuba, so the trombone was one of the only instruments that wasn't played by someone already. James had it in his mind that we didn't need another trumpet player."
Orleans Avenue comprises Pete Murano on guitar, Michael "Bass" Ballard on bass guitar, Joey Peebles on drums, Tim McFatter on tenor sax and Dan Oestreicher on baritone sax. With mostly the same members since about 2000, the rhythm section hasn't changed much throughout the years.
"We definitely know each other quite well musically," Andrews said. "If I make a flip of my hand or move my body a certain way, they know exactly what I mean. We definitely have that onstage chemistry."
With the slightest of signs, those spur-of-the-moment interludes may just happen — all with a moment's notice.
"What makes him special is the high-energy shows that he brings and mixes with a lot of music styles, from jazz to hip-hop to rock with funk thrown in, too," said John Waldman, Great Knight Productions concert promoter.
This year's series will be as diverse as ever with Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Uncle Lucius, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers and then the Infamous Stringdusters.
"We've got a little bit of everything for everyone this summer," Waldman said. "We are really pleased with the lineup. I think it's our strongest."
Throughout the years, locals and visitors alike have started to plan their summers around the Free Summer Concert Series.
"It's such a fun social event for people of all ages and everyone who enjoys live music and catching up with friends and neighbors," said Coleman Cook, the president of the Free Summer Concert Series board of directors. “It's accessible by bike or walking, and being in the outdoors, it's the kind of lifestyle we love out here."
Whether it's a crowd of 50 or a whole stadium, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue always remain passionate within the moment and let the music carry the show.
Looking back, Trombone Shorty never imagined himself where he is today.
"I just really try to stay true to the passion and music and pay respect to what I've been given. My instrument is my passport that has allowed me to travel to so many different places in the world. I never thought I would be where I am today."