Now, at 32, Andrews — nicknamed Trombone Shorty because his instrument was so much taller than him when he started gigging — is arguably the city’s biggest musical export.
For his latest tour, “Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown,” which stops at Wolf Trap on Friday, Andrews has embraced that notion, curating a lineup that acts both as a history of New Orleans music and a glimpse into his extended family tree.
Each show is like a mini festival: New Breed Brass Band, the youngest act on the bill, opens before sets from the steeped-in-tradition Preservation Hall Jazz Band, funk band Galactic and Andrews’ Orleans Avenue. Featured guests will sit in throughout the night: trumpet player Kermit Ruffins, guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington and singer-percussionist Cyril Neville of The Meters and Neville Brothers fame.
“These are people that I grew up listening to, some of my mentors and teachers throughout my whole life,” Andrews says. “People can see how I got to the sound I got to from being underneath those guys my whole life.”
Andrews has always made music that respects the Crescent City’s traditions but pushes it forward, adding pop, rock and hip-hop influences. His latest album, last year’s “Parking Lot Symphony,” showcases that idea with a musical gumbo of songs that touch on different genres but are all grounded in a swampy, horn-based sound.
“I’m just playing off of everything I learned through experience,” he says, before sharing some advice he received from the late legendary producer and pianist Allen Toussaint. “Mr. Toussaint told me, ‘Learn everything you can, take everything you can from us, but don’t be us.’ The responsibility that was put on me by certain musicians is to move the music forward.”
Now, he’s paying it forward with this tour. Every act on the bill has some connection to Andrews. Ben Jaffe, creative director of the iconic music venue Preservation Hall and the tuba player in the touring Preservation Hall Jazz Band, was like an uncle to Andrews. When Andrews was around 10, he got to play at the venue for the first time and would often go to shows to study trumpet player Leroy Jones, who still performs there today. “I used to go walk down there and sit way in the back and watch him play, try to steal as much as I could from him,” says Andrews, who also plays trumpet.
As a preteen, Andrews played a weekly jazz brunch with Ruffins in the French Quarter. “I’ve never seen him upset — he’s always smiling and having a great time no matter what,” something that’s rubbed off on him, he says.
Andrews has jammed with Washington, toured as a sideman for Galactic and calls Neville a second father.
“When I was 12, Cyril took me on tour all over the country for the whole summer,” Andrews says. At home, “he would come pick me up in the Treme and take me to his house.” Andrews and Neville’s son Omari had started a band “and we would jam out and he would come and help write songs with us and just watch us have a great time. For me to be where I am today and to invite him on tour with me — it feels so good to be able to do what he did for me.”
That extends to what Andrews is doing for New Breed Brass Band — which features his cousin, Jenard Andrews, on snare drum — by bringing them on tour and acting as a mentor.
“I’m helping them out because I come from the brass band tradition and want to push them forward as much as I can,” says Andrews, who plays with the group occasionally and has helped them write songs. “It’s keeping me in touch with where I come from.”
Wolf Trap, Filene Center, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna; Fri., 7:30 p.m., $30-$60.