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Published: 2012/02/16
by Mike Greenhaus

Trombone Shorty’s Journeys from NOLA

Did they actually record their parts studio with you? Or do you do it while you’re around the world?

Lenny played with us in the studio on this last record—on the bass. He happened to be in New Orleans. We just sent in some files to everybody else because we were traveling and they were traveling and they would email it back to us. I mean, technology…I could record an album or idea right now in this time.

Given that you are on the road so much, did you write this album in the studio or while you were on tour?

Both. I was writing on my computer—I got a little MIDI keyboarding thing. We’ll write on the computer, and we’ll play it live. But by the time we get to the studio it’s a different set of lyrics. Sometimes we’ll make a song up on the spot, and I’ll freestyle the lyrics and remember them the next night and it becomes a regular thing. And then when we get in the studio we redo it because the lyrics may be a little elementary. Live it is a party atmosphere. So we’ll go back and do the lyrics over.

We also do some writing at the soundcheck jam, just some ideas. We record it and go from there. We even write on the airplane. I’ll take my computer, put something down and send it back three or four rows to my bass player. He’ll put something in and send it back to me.

You mentioned that Jeff Beck is on the album. I know that he’s become kind of a mentor to you. How did you guys first meet?

He came to my show in New Orleans during JazzFest two years ago. It’s 2 AM, I get there, and I walk into my dressing room and there’s Nicholas Cage, Tim Robbins and Jeff Beck. I was like, “Am I in the wrong place?” He’s friends with a friend of mine in New Orleans and they told him to come to the show and he hung out for a while. Then he invited me to do some things with him. I did a Les Paul tribute with him. And then we went to Europe and opened up for him in the UK. And then he came back to Jazz Fest and we’ve been just keeping in contact. Great guy.

Did he give you any advice that you’ve taken particularly to heart?

I mean, just listening to him on stage is inspiring. He told me to go in and be honest with what you came here to do, which is music. He said, “Don’t worry about nothing else. Continue to improve your craft.”

It’s a blessing, you know. For them to even know who I am and come to the show and hang out for five, six hours is just cool. It let us know that our work is reaching people.

You mentioned that your brother is a big influence on your music and you had originally started by playing with his band. Does he still play music professionally?

Yeah, yeah. Today is his birthday. He’s 43 today—I talked to him. Actually, before we left to go to New York, I played a gig with him. And I hadn’t played with him—played a full show with him—in years. It was cool and just taking me back to my roots. He’s still playing, he always shows up whenever we play in New Orleans. He’ll just show up on the stage with his trumpet. And he wants to battle me to let me know he’s still the big brother. His band is called James Andrews and the Crescent City All Stars.

Do they still play a lot of standards?

They do a lot of their music and they might do one or two songs. But he put out a new record and they got a lot of original stuff. It is a cool band: Dr. John plays with them sometimes and Walter “Wolfman” Washington has sat in. The lineup changes a bit every once in a while. He’ll add some special guests. It’s funky now.

Obviously you literally grew up playing JazzFest and some other local New Orleans festivals but you’ve now become a staple on the international festival circuit. What was the first of the major US festivals you played besides JazzFest when you led your own band?

When I was playing with my brother, we were doing all types of festivals—Montreal Jazz Festivals and stuff. I was like ten, nine, maybe 14 or 15 years old. I don’t know. I’ve done hundreds of them now. We did the Bonnaroo. We did the Playboy Jazz Festival. About every one you could think about. I’m lost!

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