New Orleans reemerges in the new HBO series Treme
By Ericka Blount Danois
In the next episode of HBO’s musically opulent series, Treme, set in New Orleans three months after hurricane Katrina, we’ll meet the prodigious talent of Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty, playing himself as one of many struggling musicians trying to get back on their feet.
Past the brightly-colored turn of the century French styled colonial houses, around the bend from the fantastical designs of Mardi Gras, is an area local New Orleanians refer to as Backatown, an area that includes the historic Treme neighborhood. Andrews is one of the gems to come from this area, a 24-year-old charismatic singer, trombonist, and trumpeter with sounds that exhibit a raw physical power belying his nickname. His album, of the same name, is due out on April 20, featuring an eclectic mixing bowl of rock, R&B, hip-hop, and jazz that he affectionately refers to as a “Supafunkrock.”
Andrews has backed up everyone from Harry Connick Jr., to Dr. John, to Green Day. Wynton Marsalis is “his biggest fan,” Lenny Kravitz has called him a “genius,” and Allen Touissant has said, “Don’t get me wrong, we got it going on here in New Orleans, he’s just better.” The album (Verve Forecast) produced by Galactic’s Ben Ellman features guest heavyweights Lenny Kravitz, Marc Broussard, and Allen Touissant.
Andrews who stands at over six feet was given his nickname when as a kid, he became so overcome with emotion watching a second-line parade, he grabbed his trombone and joined in though his arms weren’t long enough to reach all the positions of the slide. Before he and his neighborhood friends could afford instruments they’d go to the parades armed with a cardboard box as a snare drum or a bass drum and a big wheel as a tuba. He became a bandleader by the age of six. He made his debut at Lincoln Center and played in Lenny Kravitz’s band for over a year and a half—around the same time that Katrina struck.
He made it out just hours before hurricane and levee disaster. He was on tour with Kravitz, but had come back in time to get many of his family members out in time for the storm. He’s seen his musically fertile neighborhood, a place he calls the “most influential thing in my life,” change after the storm—gentrification, displaced residents from the storm, musicians leaving for brighter lights in New York—but he returns often and sees the residents struggle to keep the culture alive.
“We still have people that hang out under the Interstate,” says Andrews. “They get their wine, they play their Indian music—they’re the Kings of Treme, just playing on bottles. But they are getting old and once that’s over it might be a different Treme.