Trombone Shorty focuses on the positives of his native New Orleans.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
New Orleans native Trombone Shorty’s “Hurricane Season” is not what you might expect. Rather than a somber ballad detailing the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, the song is downright celebratory, an instrumental anthem that deserves to be blasted at the highest volume during sporting events alongside Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2.” (That’s the song with the recurring “hey” chant.)
From a tour stop on Mackinac Island, Michigan, Trombone Shorty, whose real name is Troy Andrews, says for “Hurricane Season” he was actually writing about a storm that was coming towards the city after Katrina, and he was working in the New Orleans tradition of turning loss into celebration like the city’s famed jazz funerals when he wrote the track. “I don’t write songs that remind me of painful events in life,” Andrews says. “I like to let it go. I’ve never done a song about Katrina. I’ve never tried to write anything about that type of experience. It happened, and it’s already painful to think about or talk about, so I just wanted to let it go.”
“Hurricane Season” is the opening number on Andrews’ latest CD Backatown, which is also a slang term for the city’s historic Tremé neighborhood. The 14-song release, which was produced by Galactic’s Ben Ellman, features an appearance by Lenny Kravitz on the slinky funk song “Something Beautiful” and a cover of New Orleans R&B icon Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down,” which includes Toussaint’s piano playing. “We redid his [Toussaint’s] song, and we were nervous whether he would like it or not,” Andrews says. “He liked it, and he told us that we were bridging the old and the new together in a comfortable way.”
Andrews grew up in Tremé, which has been called “the most musical neighborhood in America’s most musical city.” Other musical residents of the region include the members of the Rebirth Brass Band and jazz trumpeter Kermit Ruffins. “It was just like a musical heaven coming up and being there,” he says.
Andrews says that the people of New Orleans are doing whatever they can to rebuild their beloved city five years after Katrina. The trombone player, who plays his instrument onstage with the manic energy of a possessed rock guitarist, got to participate in a New Orleans milestone when he took the stage with U2 and Green Day at the 2006 re-opening of the Louisiana Superdome. Even though Bono gave him a shout out – “new birth, rebirth, Trombone Shorty!” – the event was bittersweet for Andrews. “On one hand, I was very happy to be able to play the re-opening of the Superdome and to be able to play with two of my favorite bands on one stage,” he says. “And then there was always the memory of some of my family members and people being in there, in the Superdome, during the time of the storm.”