One of Troy  “Trombone Shorty” Andrews’  favorite memories happened right here at the Fair Grounds Race Course, so it’s a sweet fit that he’s gracing the Congo Square poster (by Gilbert Fletcher) this year. The young talent has performed all over the world, but the New Orleans native is true to his hometown.
Following Hurricane Katrina, the Neville Brothers took a hiatus from performing at Jazz Fest. The normally regular fixtures made their first appearance just last year. For thousands, it was an emotional yet ultimately uplifting experience – one that sent out a clear message of recovery. Andrews felt that message as he took to the stage to jam with them. Reflective for a moment, Andrews says, “That’s when I knew that New Orleans was back: when they jumped on stage.” This city will recover and certainly not without a soundtrack.
Adding to that vibrant soundtrack is the 23-year-old trombonist/trumpeter/singer/songwriter Andrews, who got his start at an early age growing up in the Tremé neighborhood. “I didn’t really have a choice,” he says of his career path. He recalls a childhood home filled with music, and one of his biggest influences is his older brother, trumpeter James Andrews: “He’s the one who’s responsible.” Andrews, who graduated from the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, spends hours a day practicing the trombone and trumpet, along with songwriting and even playing piano and keyboard.
He performs with Orleans Avenue; the group has, on many varying levels, grown up together, as several of the members attended NOCCA at the same time, cultivating their various talents. “We’re all brothers,” says Andrews. “Our relationship is cool. We talk to each other outside of music – we go to movies together; we go out to eat together. It’s a great group of guys. We call each other for advice.” They play an eclectic mix that Andrews describes as “Superfunk Rock. It’s like a musical gumbo. We have rock, funk and hip-hop together, with some jazz in it. It’s constantly changing.” Andrews also jams with his family: The Andrews Family Band was seen all over town during Mardi Gras; they frequently perform at second-lines, and they will soon record an album together.
Sometimes, he says, first-time audience members are surprised, albeit pleasantly. “It’s not a bad surprise – they’re like, ‘Whoa, we’ve never seen a trombone player in front of a rock band.’ They’re looking at it like, ‘This is different; this is cool.’"
Andrews says as each venue and atmosphere varies from the others, so too do the audiences’ attitudes. “Sometimes we adapt and have to do different things, so it’s always challenging and fun.” Again, Andrews credits his big brother with giving him the skills to reach out to the audience and getting them to interact with the music. “My brother gets the crowd involved. In New Orleans there’s a lot of call and response,” he says. “I just like to get people involved. I don’t like to have people sitting there staring. I just think it’s time to do something fresh, and I think people are really looking for something fresh. I’m just part of the new wave of New Orleans music.”

With that new wave comes a lot of innovation and creativity – Andrews says he’s always looking to expand his musical horizons.
Although his playing with pop star Britney Spears might seem incongruous, he counts her as someone he’d love to collaborate with one day. “I would like to play with Lil Wayne,“ he adds. “I want to play with people that aren’t typical for me to even think about. I’ve played with a lot of jazz greats and instrumentalists, and I want to reach out and play with the unthinkable.”
Playing for audiences in New Orleans, he says, can actually be a bit daunting at times. “It’s home. People know me, and it’s always harder to play here. The audience knows what’s good and bad, and they’ll let us know!” But overall, he says, “My relationship with my audience is cool, it’s fresh, and I love them to death.”
His audience, he recently learned, includes a wide range of age groups, including children and adolescents. “I didn’t realize I had such a big fan base in kids, and with marching bands,” he says modestly. “That inspires me to be more hands-on. The trombone can be cool! You just have to make it cool.” Andrews works with the Roots of Music, a music-education program for local middle-school-aged students. Run by Derrick Tabb of The Rebirth Brass Band; band director Lawrence Rawlins; and instructors Shoan Ruffin, Allen Dejan and Edward Lee, the organization holds regular practices at Tipitina’s, which Andrews attends as often as he can. “I’m always trying to help out the next generation. I’m still young,“ he muses, “but I wonder who’s going to come after me?”
Perhaps in some ways he is wise beyond his years, but surely anyone of any age can agree that Andrews is making memories with every energetic performance, especially right here in his hometown.