By Jenny Peters and Andy Gordon
Now in its fifth year, the 2017 Shorty Fest was a raucous, music-filled night at the House of Blues in New Orleans on May 4, 2017, led by Trombone Shorty and his exemplary band, Orleans Avenue.
Trombone Shorty – aka Troy Andrews – has been a famed horns virtuoso in that town filled with musical talent, ever since the days when he was shorter than his trombone and got his nickname. Back then, to pursue his dream of becoming a professional musician, he needed both the financial and educational help of a few people dedicated to the cause of making sure children had access to musical instruction. These days, the 31-year-old star is doing the same for the next generation with his Trombone Shorty Foundation and its Trombone Shorty Academy, which provides gifted high-school kids with an after-school chance to study the rich music of the region, the place where jazz began.
Thursday night’s sold-out show, presented by Presqu’ile Winery, helped to fill the coffers of the foundation and ignite a fire under the talented kids assembled to perform in front of a packed house. But there were no jitters for these kids, as they brought their tubas (we counted five of them on the stage crowded with young musicians), saxophones, clarinets, drums, and, of course, their trumpets and trombones, the two instruments that have made Trombone Shorty a worldwide sensation.
That performance was certainly the most emotional of the music-filled evening, as bands on two stages kept the music going until late into the early morning. The Seratones, the New Breed Brass Band, The Main Squeeze, Sexual Thunder, MainLine and The Peterson Brothers all kept the crowd dancing and cheering, while Big Chief Juan Pardo’s Voices of a Nation added fantastically feathered and beaded Mardi Gras Indians costumes to their lively set.
Of course, when Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue hit the main stage as the Shorty Fest finale, that was what the supportive audience was waiting for. In front of a wall of shoulder-to-shoulder standing concertgoers, including front-row fans who determinedly reached up for a quick handshake with their hero, Shorty and his super-tight band entertained for hours with a combination of old favorites and new cuts from his Blue Note label debut “Parking Lot Symphony.” That new 12-track work dropped on April 28, 2017, just in time for Shorty Fest and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – which Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue close out every year at this time on the Acura Stage.
Acura, which has supported Jazz Fest for the last 18 years (exactly as long as we’ve been going to this legendary music festival) with that main-stage sponsorship, has now added monetary support to Shorty Fest, as the event’s Official Automotive Partner. Their financial help, now in its second year, will allow the Trombone Shorty Foundation to “create a year-round impact on the city’s cultural community and further its commitment to perpetuate the musical heritage of New Orleans through music education, instruction, mentorship and performance.”
“We are honored to support the incredible contributions the Trombone Shorty Foundation is making to advance local musicians and maintain the one-of-a-kind musical culture of New Orleans,” said Jon Ikeda, vice president of Acura Sales. Acura also supports Trad Fridays at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). Trad Fridays is a celebration of teaching traditional brass-band street music to the classically trained music students at NOCCA.
When the last notes of the Shorty Fest were sounded and Trombone Shorty took his signature stance of raised trumpet and trombone above his head, the legacy of music for the children in New Orleans was obviously in very good hands – both of those caring hands of Troy Andrews.