You might not think that The Surf Lodge in Montauk is the ideal setting for a trombone and trumpet player from New Orleans. But when Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty, took the outdoor stage last weekend, the crowd let loose.
It’s true that by 6 p.m. on a summer Friday, the rowdiness was already fueled by copious amounts of margaritas and beer. But it’s also a testament to the performer’s versatility.
“Last year we played here and after the third song, I realized this wasn’t that type of show for people to go crazy over a bunch of solos and stuff,” said Andrews after his set. “So I had to keep the vibe going, as if we were a DJ. They just wanted to dance, so we went back to our old school roots before we had a set list. We just went with it. Probably 40 percent of that was improvised.”
It’s easy for a band to be nimble when they’ve been playing together for 15 years, give or take. At age 30, that means Andrews has been playing with some current bandmates for half of his life. “We grew up together, most of us,” he said. “I can throw one hand up and they will know exactly what I’m talking about without having to verbally speak it.”
The fact is Andrews actually got started when he was four, became a bandleader when he was six, and released his first album, “Trombone Shorty’s Swingin’ Gate,” when he was all of 16.
“My band and I skipped school and we went to a studio and recorded for one day, and we just put an album out,” he remembered. “We were playing a bunch of local shows and things were picking up for us, so to make more money at that time, CDs were helping us out at $20 a piece.”
By 18, he was touring with Lenny Kravitz; in the years since, he’s played “five or six times” for President Obama. In 2011, he received a Grammy nomination. In short, he’s never really not played. Still, each year seems to bring something new. In May, he performed for New York’s discerning art crowd, including Zoe Buckman and Andrews' friends Solange Knowles and Cleo Wade at a benefit for New Orleans' Contemporary Art Center in Harlem. This year, he was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.
And then there’s the Surf Lodge gig, sandwiched between playing on the Hall & Oates tour. “The band and his persona is infectious,” said Jayma Cardoso, who owns the Surf Lodge and books the bands for the summer concert series. “I'm Brazilian and I feel like I'm [being] teleported into Carnaval. By the time his show is over you actually feel as though you're a member of the band.”
Yet, for all his success, Trombone Shorty is not exactly a household name. And that’s just fine with him. “We don’t want to be hot, we want to last — because eventually hot gets cooled down,” he said. “We really practice music, and work really hard. Sometimes we’ll leave at six in the morning, and we started at three the day before. Whatever fame or success we have right now came strictly from us playing. As long as we focus on music, and not trying to be stars, I think we’ll be okay.”
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