There's one New Orleans tradition that Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews has maintained for 10 years: ordering a shrimp po' boy from the French Quarter's popular Verti Marte. "I always get the All That Jazz po' boy with grilled shrimp, cheese and other stuff," he says. "Then I sit on the street curb to eat and watch life happen."
And life with all of its colorful nuances and emotions is exactly what you hear on Shorty's latest album, Parking Lot Symphony. Released Friday (April 28), the organic set signals the Grammy-nominated artist's formal Blue Note Records debut. Earlier this week, the label bowed Parking Lot Symphony's bluesy third track "No Good Time." In addition to preceding singles "No Dirty Water" and a cover of Allen Toussaint's "Here Come the Girls," the Chris Seefried-produced album traverses everything from soul, funk and hip-hop to rock, pop and jazz on such original tracks as "Where It At?" and "Tripped Out Slim," plus a cover of The Meters' "It AIn't No Use."
Listen to "Here Come the Girls" below:
In keeping with another tradition he began several years ago, Shorty will close the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on May 7. "It's like the Super Bowl for us," Shorty says of the festival pole position he inherited from New Orleans icons the Neville Brothers and Professor Longhair. After a summer co-headlining tour with St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Shorty and Orleans Avenue will hit the road on an extensive fall headlining tour. It kicks off in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 14 and wraps in Indianapolis on Oct. 27. For more details, visit TromboneShorty.com/tour.
Before that, however, Shorty will celebrate the release of Parking Lot Symphony at the band's annual Treme Threauxdown at New Orleans' Saenger Theatre on Saturday. Last year's Threauxdown brought out Nick Jonas. Expected to get down this time are Andra Day, Ivan and Cyril Neville, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Soul Rebels.
Music isn't the only thing keeping Shorty busy. He also heads the Trombone Shorty Foundation and Music Academy, works with the Turnaround Arts Initiative, which helps low-performing schools improve through intensive arts programs, and is planning his second book. His first -- an illustrated, self-titled autobiography for young readers -- was named a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book by the American Library Association, all of which is in keeping with Shorty's underlying creative M.O.
"Life would be pretty boring if I didn't explore," he says. "It's about letting my ears take me on an adventure to soak in everything I can."
How does the new album differ from 2013's Raphael Saadiq-produced Say That to Say This?
We tried to capture more of our live raw energy than we have on previous albums. The title originated while I was working on a song with Alex Ebert from the band The Magnetic Zeros. Alex actually wrote the lyrics with me and mentioned the phrase "parking lot symphony." I'm like, "Well, I don't need to look for titles because this has a ring to it." The whole record is just fun.
What made you choose the two songs you covered?
Even though those songs were written way before I was born, I feel like they were written for me. Mr. Toussaint was a great horn arranger, and everything in that song fits everything we do. What's crazy about the Meters track is that we were in the studio doing the song while The Meters' Leo Nocentelli happened to be in another studio [in the building]. I said, "Hey, man, we're about to record your song and it would be great if you could bless us on it." He came in with his acoustic guitar and said, "Well, let's do it now." I just thought it would be cool to pay tribute to two legends who helped open the doors for what I'm doing.
Between your extensive touring and philanthropic efforts, plus promoting a new album, do you know how to slow down?
My mom recently asked me how I was doing, and I told her I was tired. She said, "Well, you wanted to be in show business" -- and nothing else. [Laughs] I honestly don't think I know how to slow down, though, because music just takes over me spiritually and emotionally. If I can just play, it doesn't matter where we are … Japan, Australia or here in the neighborhood. Music continues to have me going hard.