Trombone Shorty hits the stage at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in February with his namesake horn in one hand, a trumpet in the other and a clear sense of mission in his stride. The New Orleans native and his longtime band, Orleans Avenue—named after the street that runs through his Tremé neighborhood—are on a tour opening shows for the alternative-rock stars Red Hot Chili Peppers. But when Shorty lifts his ’bone for a solo in the first number, the metallic-funk instrumental “Slippery Lips,” he hits the air like the main event, firing a conqueror’s volley of long, high peals, soulful melodic flourishes and deep, cocky growls. It is the same jubilant prowess, steeped in New Orleans’ brass-band tradition, that marked him as a child sensation in Tremé street parades and has made him a crossover success in adulthood.
Now 31, Shorty, real name Troy Andrews—actually a long, lean man with a quietly firm, thoughtful demeanor in conversation—has been a working musician, leading his own bands and touring the world, for more than 25 years. He has also collaborated onstage and on record with a galaxy of stars in jazz, R&B and rock, including Queen Latifah, the rapper Mystikal, the late Crescent City trumpet elder Lionel Ferbos, British guitar heroes Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton and the rock band Foo Fighters.