The Tall and the Short of It - OZY | A Modern Media Company
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Troy Andrews aka Trombone Shorty performs on stage at KOKO on October 1, 2013 in London, England.
Source Andy Sheppard/Getty Images


Sometimes you don’t need 76 trombones; you just need one. Especially if your name is Trombone Shorty.

By Eugene S. Robinson

Out of all the instruments you’d expect a superstar to play, the trombone is probably pretty low on the list, down there with timpani or flugelhorn. Sure, “Seventy-Six Trombones ” from the musical The Music Man was a noteworthy break, and we all bow down to jazz greats Slide Hampton , Kai Winding and Tommy Dorsey. But a 21st century superstar with a trombone? Not likely.

That was until 6-year old Troy Andrews picked one up.

Andrews had already been working the parade circuit in New Orleans by then. But he was 6 when he started his own band.

Yes, 6. In all fairness, Andrews had already been working the parade circuit in New Orleans by then. But he was 6 when he started his own band. Some would say Trombone Shorty, the name he now uses, was born then and there, but it’s clear that the now-27-year-old Shorty was born when he was born.

As in: Music is as much a part of who he is and how he sees the world as his hair or eye color. The world has taken note. There are nominations (an Academy Award-nominated song with Dr. John; a Grammy nod in 2010), awards (Offbeat’s 2007’s Best Contemporary Jazz Performer) and plenty of notice (everything all over the place). He was on a half a dozen episodes of the HBO series Treme , set in the New Orleans neighborhood where Troy just happened to have grown up. 

He’s also played with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to Lenny Kravitz, U2 and Green Day, and in idioms as diverse as rock, hip-hop, funk, traditional jazz and his own hybrid sound he calls “supafunkrock.” And now he’s started a nonprofit foundation to nurture musical chops in aspiring New Orleans high school students. Which is to say that he’s a musical phenom with much more than an electrifying sound: He’s got and is on a mission.

Don’t believe us? Then believe this: a then-13-year-old Trombone Shorty with stones enough to follow Wynton Marsalis with a solo of his own – at the Lincoln Center:

And if that was not enough for you to want to check yourself into Underachievers Anonymous, witness his newest music video for “Fire and Brimstone,” released this week, and hear the voice behind that trombone:


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