Last September, on the night the Badgers beat Washington State 42-21, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews played New Orleans superfunk for a rapturous post-game crowd on the Memorial Union Terrace. There's no game on Thursday, Oct. 2, when Andrews returns, but he doesn't need football pheromones to blow the roof off the Wisconsin Union Theater.
The show is part of the Isthmus Jazz Series, though it's not quite jazz. Trombone Shorty, just 22, is the soaring young scion of a Crescent City musical lineage. He's got a handful of albums out that showcase genuine versatility. The Troy Andrews Quintet serves up a rangy set of standards; Orleans and Claiborne, the debut album for Andrews' main outfit Orleans Avenue, sizzles with second-line brass licks, a little hard bop and a whole lotta funk. Last January, Andrews was in the lineup for Jazz at Lincoln Center's "Kings of Crescent City" concert.
Andrews was born and raised in Treme, the downtown heart of black New Orleans. They call his older brother, trumpet player James Andrews, "Satchmo of the Ghetto." The elder Andrews' recordings with the Crescent City Allstars knock me out - funky gospel/hard bop with a late '60s beat, plus jazz hall swing.
I've got Trombone Shorty on the phone. "You know, we have a bunch of musical families in New Orleans," he says. "For me to be part of one was a blessing. I got to learn from my brothers firsthand, every day. It's one of those New Orleans cultural things that's unique. Besides James, my brother Buster's a snare drummer. Most of my cousins are with the Rebirth Brass Band or the Dirty Dozen. Everybody in my family plays some type of instrument.
"But my mom's the one responsible for all of us playing. She got us instruments and surrounded us with great musicians. She was friends with legends like Tuba Fats; she'd have them come over to the house and here we are."
On Andrews' website there's a photo of him as a tiny kid, playing a trumpet for Bo Diddley. By 6 or 7, Andrews was big brother James' sidekick on the jazz festival circuit. Growing up, the younger Andrews played street music at Jackson Square and studied at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. He graduated from that prestigious high school in 2004, played a world tour with funk rocker Lenny Kravitz in '05 and a gig with Green Day for the Superdome's post-Katrina reopening in '06.
Meanwhile, Orleans Avenue - most members are kids Andrews grew up and went to high school with - percolated in the background till Orleans and Claiborne was released in '05. The album brought national success, but it won't quite prepare you for Orleans Avenue today. "We're doing new stuff now," Andrews says. "We grew into our sound, it took some time to get there. Now we know who we are, so we're working on that. It's youthful superfunk rock with hip-hop influences. It's a musical gumbo. It's fun, high-energy dance music."
Don't expect to see a new CD yet - it's coming together in bits and pieces, since tours keep the band busy. Andrews doesn't like being interrupted during precious studio time, not even by newspaper reporters like me, though he's utterly gracious. "We're looking forward to coming back to Madison," he says. "Last year this time we played after a big football game, right there on the lake. There were thousands of people, it was a big party. And we walked down State Street. It reminds me of Bourbon Street."