Last updated: February 16. 2013 2:39PM - 152 Views

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Five feet, 11 inches is only short if you're an NBA player. Otherwise, it's pretty normal - maybe even a little on the tall side.

Yet, New Orleans jazz/funk/rock bandleader Troy Andrews still has to go through life with a nickname like Trombone Shorty.

That's what happens when you pick up the horn at age 4 in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, are marching in a second-line parade with a trombone as long as you are tall, and are leading your own band by the age of 6. Some nicknames are impossible to shake - so Andrews just embraced it.

"A couple years ago, I tried to do a gig under my real name, Troy Andrews, and only close friends and family showed up," said Andrews in a previous interview.

Now, Andrews is coming back again, for a free show at the South Park Amphitheater on Friday evening. That's not too surprising, since he's on tour pretty much all the time, even at the expense of avoiding his beloved hometown for long stretches at a time.

"Recently, in the last six or seven years, we've been doing close to 200 dates a year," Andrews says. "We're gone 90 percent of the time. With the busy schedule, it doesn't allow me to be as active as I once was. Whenever we get a chance, we might get out and jam."

You can get a good sense of Andrews' New Orleans in HBO's "Treme," on which he has been an occasional guest star. Its series of loosely connected, interlocking stories are about struggling musicians, chefs, Mardi Gras Indians, teachers and other assorted characters living the high life and low life simultaneously. It's also a good representation of how the overlapping bonds of family, band and home helped keep the city afloat after Katrina.

"The music is the heartbeat of the city," Andrews says. "That was the first thing we were able to get back after the devastation. Some of us were able to go out and make a name for ourselves, and have an impact on those in the city, the younger generations.

"The music is moving forward. Every time I come back, I hear new bands on Frenchman Street influenced by us, but who are putting their own spin on it. Then we might hear a young band influence by us, and be influenced by what they're trying to do. It's a beautiful thing to share."

Recent albums from Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue have shown a band gradually pushing away from the brass-heavy jazz-funk and second line sounds of early influences like Rebirth Brass Band, and into more rock-oriented territory. Hip-hop's influence also is becoming apparent.

"We can't run from it," Andrews says. "It's everywhere. I'm a part of it, just being in my age bracket. I've worked with some local rappers: Juvenile, Mystikal, Mannie Fresh. My music, it's in there because of the rhythms of the drum patterns, It happens naturally, being here in the city. Everything overlaps each other - hip-hop, R&B, jazz, folk music - there's always a link to explore different neighborhoods of music."

Of course, playing trombone isn't the easiest route to music stardom. It's one of those instruments that tends to recede back in the mix, on the rare times it's used at all.

"I think that what separates me is that I'm an entertainer," Andrews says. "I sing and play the trumpet. I think approaching it more as a frontman, made it so people can more easily relate to it. The people I look up to are more like Lenny Kravitz (whose backing band he was in), James Brown, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong. I always tried to play my trombone more like a guitar."

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