Celebrate ‘Shorty Gras’ with Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue at Hollywood Casino

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Trombone Shorty at Hollywood Casino (Part 1)

You don’t necessarily have to fly to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras and jam out to jazz.

Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews performs during the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at the Ellipse in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Folks in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area can quickly cross over the border to West Virginia for the “Shorty Gras” tour by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with the Soul Rebels at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races on Saturday.

“We’re celebrating Mardi Gras and we got the Soul Rebels with us, they’re coming on stage with us and jamming and we’ll just see what happens from there,” Shorty told WTOP. “It’s just like we’re playing in New Orleans in front of our people down there, but it’s a lot of fun and I’m happy to have them on the road with us. We’re just bringing a little bit of New Orleans Mardi Gras to the East Coast and wherever else we’re going.”

Shorty is no stranger to D.C. proper, having played the White House nearly half a dozen times.

“The National Christmas Tree Lighting was very hard for me to play in that cold weather because of the brass … my lips, I thought I was gonna be like the guy off ‘Dumb & Dumber’ when he was in Aspen … but we got through it,” Shorty joked. “D.C. has always felt like a second home for me. … I think D.C. having the go-go music, which is a regional thing up there, and we have the brass, it just feels like we’re a perfect match culturally.”

Born Troy Andrews in 1986 in New Orleans, his grandfather Jessie Hill had an R&B hit with “Ooh Poo Pah Doo,” his great-uncle Walter “Papoose” Nelson played with Fats Domino, and his mom was the grand marshal of jazz funerals and second-line parades. His older brother James played trumpet, so he learned trombone, and at age 4, Bo Diddley invited him on stage at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1990.

“Music was always around me, not only in my house, but I could go around the corner and see people like Kermit Ruffins playing on the street, or Shannon Powell, then as I got a little older, I started to be around the Neville Brothers a lot,” Shorty said. “In the Tremé neighborhood, there was no way I could escape music. … Even if my family wasn’t musically inclined, I’d probably be a part of it because that was my surroundings.”

He began pursuing music more seriously by attending the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts with classmate Jon Batiste, who later reunited with him on the Grammy-winning album “We Are” (2021). A few weeks ago, the two caught up again at the Grammys as Batiste was nominated for “World Music Radio” and Shorty was nominated alongside his nephew’s New Breed Brass Band for “Made in New Orleans.”

“We talk every other day,” Shorty said. “We grew up together since we were around 11 years old. We met each other and he was actually my first keyboard piano player in my group, he helped me start the band ‘Orleans Avenue,’ and played with us up until he went up to Juilliard in New York. … We did the ‘We Are’ record together, he called and asked if I could play on it. I sent it back either the same night or the next morning.”

In 2005, Shorty also joined Lenny Kravitz’s horn section for a rock tour with Aerosmith.

“I was already interested in rock, I would listen to Nine Inch Nails and the Red Hot Chili Peppers,” Shorty said. “When I got with Lenny, if I was going to approach funk rock, what better teacher can I ask for than him? I just studied him every night and we still work together. We just did a song for the movie ‘Rustin.’ … I think my first show with him was in Mexico City in front of 80,000 people and I just watched how he approached the stage.”

After Hurricane Katrina devastated his hometown, he helped reopen the Superdome by performing with U2 and Green Day on “Monday Night Football” in 2006. A few years later, he rocked the halftime show of the NBA All-Star Game with Dr. John, Janelle Monáe, Gary Clark Jr. and Earth Wind & Fire in 2014.

Along the way, he earned a Grammy nomination for his album “Backatown” (2010), performing tracks on late-night talk shows from David Letterman to Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien to Jimmy Kimmel. He also began acting in scripted series like Aaron Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and David Simon’s “Tremé.”

“It was a lot of fun,” Shorty said. “When I got to do the acting thing, I was just really being myself, I just had to remember the lines, so that took a lot of practice, but as I kept doing it, I became more comfortable with it, but it’s a fun, different avenue to do. It’s a lot of fun and David Simon wants to get it right, he wants to make it feel as authentic as possible, so he got people from the neighborhood that never acted a day in their life.”

Meanwhile, he played trombone on the Oscar-nominated song “Down in New Orleans” with Dr. John in Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” (2009), reaching a new generation along with winning a Caldecott Medal for his children’s book “Trombone Shorty” and even getting his own Muppet on “Sesame Street.”

“It’s very important because it’s an unspoken tradition in New Orleans, that’s the same thing that happened to me musically from some of the older musicians that passed down the tradition to me,” Shorty said. “That’s just what we do, that’s just a part of the culture there. We do that, we’re not taught to do that, that’s what we see, so it’s just a natural, instinctive thing. It’s been wonderful to be able to reach the younger generation.”

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WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Trombone Shorty at Hollywood Casino (Part 2)

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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