Don't let the name fool you. Trombone Shorty, born Troy Andrews, is also an expert trumpeter, vocalist and producer, seasoned backing musician, philanthropist, actor (he played himself in the last season of HBO's post-Katrina series, Treme), and, most notably, bandleader in Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. On their latest album, September's Say That To Say This, Shorty is equal parts jazz, hip-hop and funk, with heavy doses of both rock and R&B, evokingLenny Kravitz here and Prince there. The album's greatest coup, however, involved Andrews's last-minute decision to include a cover of Be My Lady, by New Orleans 60s/70s funk band the Meters. That's not all, though - he convinced the band, who hadn't been together in the studio since 1977, to record the track with him. Over the phone, in a charmingly strong accent, Andrews talks about his record and his hometown, "N'Awlins."
What inspired you to try to get the Meters to play with you?
I was riding around New Orleans in the car with my cousin - we always listen to old New Orleans music to see what inspires us. My album still needed a medium-tempo ballad, and we came up to Be My Lady. I said I was going to record it and attempt to get the original Meters on it, because if I couldn't get them I wasn't going to do it. My cousin told me it wouldn't happen.
So how did you convince them to reunite?
I had to call each and every one of them individually, because there's no manager for the Meters. They've seen me grow up. They know what their music means to me, and they're really happy for where I am in my career. There's a mutual respect between musicians - that's probably what convinced them.
Would they ever perform it with you?
That might be pushing it... but I think we could make it happen. Maybe five dates around the United States. And we could share the stage with them or I could play with their band - either way, I'd love to play with them onstage.
What was it like working with your co-producer, Raphael Saadiq, on Say That To Say This?
I grew up listening to his music on the radio. My mom, my sisters and everybody loved his music. He's a great songwriter, great producer and, more importantly to me, he's a great musician, so we were able to push each other in different directions musically. Without his even putting on his producer's hat we were able to jam a lot in the studio, because he approaches some things differently than we, coming from New Orleans, do. It was a learning experience for me and my band. He had a big impact on our sound just in that small amount of time we spent together.
"There's no place like home" is a cliché, but your home is one of the world's best music cities.
It's important that I spend [enough time] at home, because there are things happening there musically. We have a bunch of young musicians coming up who are inspired by what we're doing, but they're creating their own lane, and that inspires me. I want to continue to be a part of that, so I have to go back and listen and play with other people's bands and check out where it's going and hope to have some type of input. I don't want to lose that connection. If I don't go back and be a part of it, my music might drastically change.