On Saturday, April 28, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue will host the fourth Annual Treme Threauxdown. The yearly Jazz Fest lagniappe returns to the Saenger Theatre with some special guests, though full details have yet to be announced. In the meantime, OffBeat.com chatted with Shorty about the forthcoming Threauxdown, his beloved Treme, gentrification and more.
OffBeat.com: Do you ever struggle to walk the line between commodification of New Orleans culture versus the preservation of it?
Trombone Shorty: If you go to a second line parade, you don’t have brass bands playing traditional music, or what we consider traditional music, but they are keeping the tradition alive. Even in the city – you can talk to Mardi Gras Indians, you can talk to brass bands… even a second line in the street. They’ll have their own concerns about it changing when they came up. But to the world, we’re still keeping an incredible tradition alive. But I think that… the New York Times saying New Orleans is the number-one place to visit in the world… I’ve been thinking that, and I think it’s the best place in the world. I’m not sure what type of effect [it would have], if rent prices will go up, but I get people coming here and wanting to live here because I know people who come from around the world and never leave.
But I think anything that puts New Orleans on the forefront, even with the series Treme that we did, it’s beautiful to put it on a platform to be spotlighted. But because we did it and we named it “Treme,” it definitely changed my neighborhood…People that live there now, some didn’t know what a second line is. But they do now. We did Treme and commercialized my neighborhood. For me, the Treme I grew up in went from Claiborne Street to Basin Street, to Rampart Street, to Esplanade Street…and now there’s people telling me that Treme is way in the 8th Ward somewhere. But I never knew that.
I think, at the end of the day, it is one of the best places. It is the best place in the world to be spotlighted. I go around to bring people the experience of New Orleans and I encourage them to come to the city and see what made me, what helped me, and there’s a billion other musicians that are just like me in the city who play this music and have their own take.
OffBeat.com: Are there any issues in Treme that you hope will be addressed by Latoya Cantrell and her office?
TS: The only thing to me is, I think, the zoning in places that they’re calling Treme. Like the 7th Ward. Treme is the 6th Ward. Because across Claiborne is the 6th Ward. But now, everything is Treme. If you’re looking to buy a house and it says Treme, but it isn’t, well that’s the only problem I have. There are people that moved in, that moved out, but the people I know, we call them ‘Tremanians”, are people that maybe couldn’t afford to rent anymore. Different people come in, different generations. You get visionary people. Saying “Oh man, I love this neighborhood, we can bring it to another level.” It’s the same with music and young musicians, they say, “We can take this but let’s move a little forward with it.” Fifty years or 30 years from now, someone will take from us and move along. As long as we got the culture of the second lines, the Mardi Gras Indians, as long as we understand that’s our thing, then there’s nothing that could stop us.
OffBeat.com: How does being on the road so much affect your writing process? When you’re writing music, is it jam inspired or do you write something down and present it to the band?
TS: Well, sometimes I may have an idea and just hum it into my phone. Sometimes, I’ll wake up on the bus when we have soundcheck and I’ll just play the piano in the dressing room, and I’ll shoot it to the band right then and there and say “Ok let’s work on it in soundcheck,” and we’ll spend an hour, thirty minutes working on it. Or, someone else might have a jam together before I get on the stage and I’ll just get my horn. Sometimes I’ll have my laptop and create the full sound, with synthesizers, and I’ll present it to the band, or sometimes it’s just a drum beat. And we’ll build it from that. So it’s at any moment.
OffBeat.com: Now that you’re heading towards the fourth annual Treme Threauxdown, what’s your favorite thing about putting together the event?
[Figuring out] what special guests are we going to have and what genre of music do they come from. And that’s the most important thing. We’ve got country musicians, we’ve got r&b and that’s what we’re thinking about. Because that person is very strong in whatever genre of music they come from, so we have to play that as authentically as we can.
Pre-sale tickets for the 2018 Treme Threauxdown become available today at 10 a.m. local time.