Trombone Shorty kicks brass at Tropical Heatwave
By Wade Tatangelo
Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews made his Tampa Bay area debut at Tropical Heatwave two years ago, when he took the stage as a virtual unknown. On Saturday, the New Orleans native returns to WMNF's annual bash as a co-headlining hero.
During the 2007 show, Andrews' mash-up of traditional jazz, hard rock, syncopated funk and old-school hip-hop was unlike anything most audience members had heard. With his band Orleans Avenue, Andrews started his set with a monstrous instrumental version of AC/DC's Back in Black, punctuated with fierce, precise trombone blasts. He would later switch to trumpet, sing, beat box and bust out some impressive dance moves.
"That was a great, great time for us musically, and the audience was giving us so much love and energy we had to take it to that level," Andrews, 23, said when he called earlier this month from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. "Playing Tampa has become like home away from home. We couldn't ask to be in a better place. We're very excited."
Andrews returned to the area last spring for the Tampa Bay Blues Festival, where he drew quite a crowd even though he had the unenviable 1 p.m. opening slot. His New Orleans party music is an unstoppable force that's continually winning over converts.
"People see a horn and think jazz — sit down and be quiet," he said, and with a laugh added, "We're trying to make people unafraid of the horn."
Andrews grew up in the culturally rich Treme neighborhood. Surrounded by a family of musicians, he became a bandleader at age 6. Andrews studied jazz at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the same school that prepared Wynton and Branford Marsalis, as well as Harry Connick Jr., for stardom.
In 2005, Lenny Kravitz selected Andrews to join his horn section for a world tour that included dates with Aerosmith. That's when Andrews had his epiphany. He returned to New Orleans and went from leading second-line jazz bands and barely speaking on stage to singing, dancing and fronting a group that produces what he calls "super funk rock."
"I needed that; it was like schooling for me," Andrews said about the Kravitz tour. "I had played with country, bluegrass, jazz, hip-hop acts, covered all that. But when I got with my uncle Lenny, I thought 'This is where I want to be.' "
(No, Andrews is not really Kravitz's nephew: "We're not related by blood," Andrews says, "but by love.")
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue are scheduled to perform from 9:40 to 11:10 p.m. Saturday at El Pasaje Plaza. For the second year in a row, the plaza will feature only artists from Louisiana. It's the place to catch Grammy-winning Cajun band BeauSoleil, Big Sam's Funky Nation and Bonerama. They all are redefining the sound of New Orleans while following in the footsteps of seminal jazz acts like Louis Armstrong, the Marsalis family and Big Sam's former employer, Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
"These bands are recognizing the traditions but just breaking through with other influences for something new," said WMNF program director Randy Wynne. "Their sound provides something for everyone."
>>if you go
WMNF's 28th annual event is Saturday with 30-plus bands spread out across six stages in and around the Cuban Club, 2010 Avenida Republica de Cuba, Ybor City. Performances start at 5:10 p.m. and continue well past midnight. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Youth tickets (ages 12- 20) are $10 and available in person only. The Heatwave wristband gets you into every venue, including New World Brewery and the Orpheum, according to the WMNF Web site. But if you just want to hang in New World or the Orpheum, you can get in for $8 per venue.
The bash offers way more music than anyone can see in a single night. Here are some highlights plus the rest of the lineup.
EL PASAJE PLAZA'S LOUISIANA STAGE
BIG SAM'S FUNKY NATION
Led by former Dirty Dozen Brass Band trombonist/MC Sammie Williams, this group is the ideal party starter, with fat grooves that make it impossible not to dance. The hip-hop-influenced brass band also has been known to coerce throngs of people to "get low" and throw down an intensely contagious version of the Hokey Pokey.
BEAUSOLEIL AVEC MICHAEL DOUCET
Perhaps the most famous and respected Cajun band on the planet, BeauSoleil brings genuine bayou sounds colored by rock, blues, jazz and Caribbean music. BeauSoleil has won two Grammy awards, including a Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album trophy for last year's Live at the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
TROMBONE SHORTY AND ORLEANS AVENUE (9:40-11:10 p.m.) See story above.
BONERAMA (11:30 p.m.-1 a.m.)
The band blew the roof off Skipper's Smokehouse when it came through town last year. Featuring a ferocious, four-trombone frontline, the brassy rockers do outstanding, adventurous interpretations of classics like the Allman Brothers Band's Whipping Post and the Beatles' Helter Skelter.
OTHER NATIONAL ACTS
CHUCK PROPHET AND THE MISSION EXPRESS (10:05-11:35 p.m.)
Underground roots rock luminary Chuck Prophet is a WMNF fave who is smart and soulful. He's perhaps best known for the gem Apology, a cut off his 2000 album The Hurting Business. At Cuban Club Bandshell on the Patio.
SARAH BORGES AND THE BROKEN SINGLES
In March, Borges released her best album to date, the charming Americana/pop offering The Stars Are Out. The disc features originals and covers ranging from Smokey Robinson's Being With You to the Lemonheads' Ride With Me. At Cuban Club Bandshell on the Patio.
The indie troubadour is a San Francisco-based singer/songwriter. On his haunting Florida travelogue South of the South, our famous entertainment district receives an entire verse. "So I jumped my pogo stick, all the way to Ybor City," he sings. "Where they burned up a couple blocks, and to me seemed like a pity." Okay, so it's not the most flattering depiction, but it's a cool shout-out nonetheless. At Orpheum.
THE REST OF THE LINEUP
CUBAN CLUB BALLROOM
• Johnny Cakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso (6-7 p.m.) punk/ska/calypso
• Cold Joon (7:20-8:20) world rock
• Blair Carman and the Belleview Boys (8:40-9:50) piano rockabilly
• The Vodkanauts (10:10-11:10) lounge surf rock
• James Intveld (11:30-12:50) country/rockabilly
CUBAN CLUB BANDSHELL ON THE PATIO
• Johukames Posse (5:10-6:10) reggae and soca
• Michael Burks (8:10-9:40) blues guitar slinger
• Magadog (11:55-1:05) ska and reggae
CUBAN CLUB CANTINA
• The Mojo Gurus (5:10-6:10) glam and twang
• Thomas Wynn and the Believers (6:30-7:25) rock-soul-roots
• Eilen Jewell Band (7:45-8:45) folk/country/rock
• Kinobe and Soul Beat Africa (9:05-10:05) acoustic African
• Pack A.D. (10:25-11:25) alt-rock-blues
• The Beauvilles (11:45-12:45) indie alt rock
NEW WORLD BREWERY
1313 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City
• Birdstreet Players (6-6:45) funk/R&B/reggae
• Lauris Vidal (7-7:45) folk experimental
• Roppongi's Ace (8-8:45) rock/country/soul
• Ted Lukas & the Misled (9-9:45) roots rock/power pop
• Will Quinlan & the Diviners (10-10:45) indie/folk rock/Americana
• GreyMarket (11-11:45) rock/alternative/electronic
• The Sheaks (12-12:45) indie garage rock
1902 N Republica De Cuba, Ybor City
• Stolen Idols (6:30-7:30) Latin jazz lounge
• Poetry Showcase: Sandbloom (7:50-8:50) poetry and R&B
• Modern Skirts (9:10-10:10) alternative indie pop
• The Visitations (11:40-12:40) experimental pop