HotStar: Trombone Shorty

When booking Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, don’t think smooth jazz. Don’t expect a quiet, sleepy crowd. Think raucous, sweaty, jamtastic celebrations.

“I saw him a few years ago at a club during Jazz Fest,” co-manager Mike Kappus told Pollstar. “He just took the stage and the energy level shot up. It never went down. It was just constant intensity and great playing.”

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is taking his first steps of a lifelong career. He is 23 years old but he has already played alongside U2 and Green Day at the Superdome, and traveled Europe both with Lenny Kravitz and with the New Birth Brass Band, led by his brother James.

He has an award-winning documentary based upon his music, been lauded by Wynton Marsalis, Lenny Kravitz and Allen Toussaint, and he’s played in front of audiences since the age of 4. (Andrews, who also plays trumpet, got his nickname around that time because the trombone was bigger than he was.)

Meanwhile, with the guidance from co-managers Dave Bartlett and Matt Cornell at 525 Worldwide, Andrews and his band are working on their first full-length before doing the late-night talk show circuit.

In other words, there’s plenty still ahead for Trombone Shorty. While he and his band hit the festivals, he is handling an unprecedented number of calls and playing bandleader for the first time.

“I don’t know where the calls are coming from, to tell you the truth,” Andrews told Pollstar. “I think we’re just getting the opportunity to do the best that we can and word is starting to spread.”

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue have crisscrossed North America as a support act, and returned to every market as a highly anticipated headliner. They’ve blown away festival crowds and are immediately re-booked.

“We don’t see him go in and not knock an audience out,” Kappus said. “We come in to work on Monday and get the reports from the festivals on the weekend and it’s pretty much the same: The blowout No. 1 response of the festival. It’s nice to have superlatives become the norm.”

Andrews knows how to run a show, but he was modest when it came to being a bandleader. Being on tour with Kravitz and his brother did not prepare him for the role.

“When I was out with those guys, all I had to do was wake up, learn a couple of songs, play the show and get paid,” he said. “Now? It changed my life. I actually have to be on the phone every day with the managers and the agents. I have to make sure the band is there. I’m in the driver’s seat and I get to see what it was like for my brother, or Lenny, or any other person I’ve traveled with over the last few years.”

And even after what can sometimes be a four-hour show, he doesn’t leave the building.

“I don’t even put up my horn. I just go right out there so I can meet everybody and just be involved with the fans,” he said. “I do all that meet-and-greet, sign things, interviews, whatever I have to do and I have fun with all of that.”

Although Shorty and his bandmates – all in the same age group and all graduates of the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center – love their “superfunkrock,” that’s not to say they eschew traditional NOLA music.

“He has the jazz to fall back on at any time,” Kappus said. “He’s not going away; he has the ability to play on both sides.”

Andrews said he was just trying to continue to develop musically when The Rosebud Agency came calling.

“I’m not sure how it happened, to be sure about it, but I’m thinking we had a guy who was working with us at the time who was familiar with Rosebud,” Andrews said. “They came and they liked the show and the next week we were signed to them.”

That doesn’t mean Andrews wasn’t already familiar with the agency. He is a big fan of fellow Rosebud client The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and in high school would visit Rosebud’s Web site.

“I’ve always seen how much they were working,” he said. “I talked to Dirty Dozen and they said [joining Rosebud] would be a great thing for me to do, and I trusted them. It happened, and we’re working as much as Dirty Dozen.”

Andrews and his bandmates have been home a little more than one month, total, over the past year as they continue to build their rep. Andrews said he spent the little time he’s had in NOLA catching up with his mom. That’s sweet, but maybe modesty kept him from speaking of his other good works.

“He took the initiative to visit Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, to offer his services to help reach out to youth, especially at-risk youth, in New Orleans and Louisiana,” Kappus said.

Andrews and Landrieu’s office are collaborating on several projects, including school assemblies, to inspire at-risk youth to stay in school and possibly pursue careers through music programs. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue are set to collaborate with students from the Roots of Music program at a forum on cultural economy Oct. 30.