Seldom do expectations brew around the buzz of a new artist the way they did when Troy Andrews – known to pop, soul and jazz audiences worldwide as Trombone Shorty – made his Lexington debut four years ago.
Granted, Andrews could have hardly been considered a novice at the time in his native New Orleans. Equally proficient on trumpet as well as trombone, he was playing professionally at age six, touring the world alongside Lenny Kravitz right out of high school and performing with the likes of U2, Green Day, the Dave Matthews Band and Jeff Beck before getting introduced to local audiences with a Courthouse Plaza performance tied to the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games.
Some who turned out for the performance knew the kind of profile Andrews was establishing. Others had no clue. But before a brilliantly diverse audience, especially in terms of age, Andrews and his Orleans Avenue band delivered a blend of New Orleans funk, rock and R&B accented by vintage soul and contemporary hip hop.
“That was such a great night because what we were doing was not really based off a hit song or anything like that,” said Andrews, who returns to town for a performance tonight at the Singletary Center for the Arts.
“To see that in Lexington at that time and for the people there to trust us enough to put on a show where they could dance and just have fun was great. It’s a thrill to have an audience like that. Those people didn’t have any expectation that night but to have a good time. They didn’t know what songs we were going to play or even what we would sound like. Now, I think, they might have some idea.”
Andrews’ return also comes a year after the release of Say That to Say This, a record that expands further the cross generational scope of his music.
To produce the record, Andrews enlisted Raphael Saadiq, the veteran singer and multi-instrumentalist devoted to finding new voices for old school soul. He has also produced records for stars like John Legend and Mary J. Blige.
“Raphael is just a legend all around in my eyes,” Andrews said. “He actually became a member of the band at certain points on this record. Sometimes you get producers that know how to produce records but they can’t explain to you musically or theoretically what they want. But he was able to get in there and show us by playing with us.”
Favoring tradition on Say That to Say This was a version of Be My Lady, a song written and recorded by the cherished New Orleans funk troupe The Meters in 1977. But Andrews wanted more than a cover tune. He was after a full blown Meters reunion for the session. That meant contacting members Art Neville, George Porter Jr, Zigaboo Modeliste and Leo Nocentelli separately as they had long ago stopped working with a band manager.
“We all pulled it together,” Andrews said. “At some point during the recording session when they got the song back up under their fingers again, they started to jam out. That very moment was the experience I never thought I would have. I saw The Meters and how they created all those legendary albums back in the ‘70s. It was amazing how exciting the vibes were when they got used to playing with each other in the studio again.
“That kind of tradition is in me, too. But I also have to create a new tradition so kids under me have something to base music off of the way I’ve had Allen Toussaint, the Neville Brothers and The Meters. Maybe I can become one of those people to give the new generation a platform to keep the music moving forward.”
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue with Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds perform at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St. Tickets are $27-$35. Call (859) 257-4929 or go to http://finearts.uky.edu/singletary-center.