GLEN DAVID ANDREWS hopped down from an outdoor stage at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in May, leaving his trombone behind. He sang in a powerful raspy voice, inflected with just a hint of Louis Armstrong. Segueing from one song to another - the controversial 1920s classic “Black and Blue” to the more recent brass-band tune “Cell Block Nine,” for example - he sprinkled each with improvised lyrics. “It's my time,” he shouted between numbers.
Andrews, 30, has a lanky 6-foot-4-inch body and a mercurial personality. The brass-band music and traditional jazz he was raised on are still his greatest loves. “The musicians that played in my neighborhood, they brought me out of the womb,” he says, not by way of metaphor. According to his mother, Vana Acker, when she was pregnant, Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen, a traditional-music icon and mentor to many musicians, came by and blew his horn outside the house. He said the sound of the tuba would induce labor. Glen David was born the next day.
As a young boy, whenever a second-line parade passed by, Andrews tagged along with his older brother, Derrick Tabb, who is now the snare drummer with the Rebirth Brass Band. Back then, Andrews played bass drum. At 12, he picked up the trombone. Rather than studying formally, he absorbed musical skills from neighbors such as “Frogman” Joseph, Harry Nance, Harold DeJean and other local heroes - “the cream of the crop,” Andrews says. Soon he was playing for money alongside Tuba Fats in Jackson Square, in the middle of the French Quarter.
He was recruited into a brass band led by his younger cousin, Troy Andrews, and played in both the New Birth, Lil Rascals, and Tremé brass bands, among others, lending equal measures of musicianship and showmanship to each. Now he fronts his own high-powered ensemble that veers from traditional jazz to gospel, rock, blues and funk, all in the same show.
“Aside from being a great musician, Glen David has absorbed a fading tradition,” says Ben Jaffe, who runs Preservation Hall, where Andrews will be returning for a regular turn in the fall. “He's a link for his generation to something important., but he also has a rare enthusiasm and energy that makes it all special and exciting for even casual listeners.” Though most contemporary brass-band musicians have embraced the more funk and pop-oriented sound of say, the Rebirth band, a shift that began some 30 years ago, Andrews always includes some of the old hymns, spirituals and trad-jazz tunes in his performances.
He released a live gospel CD, “Walking Through Heaven’s Gate”, on Threadhead Records in 2009, probably the first CD to have captured on record the entrancing quality of Andrews' performances at venues like Jazzfest, Lincoln Center, Preservation Hall, Tipitina’s, and most powerfully of all, on the streets, where it all began.
He's appeared in HBO’s Treme, playing himself and performing one of his original tunes, Knock Wit Me. He has also appeared in numerous documentaries, including Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans, by Lolis Eric Elie, Swiss filmmaker Peter Entell's chronicle of the controversial, post-Katrina proposed closing of St. Augustine Church, Shake the Devil Off, and Spike Lee’s two epics about Katrina, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, and If Da Creek Don’t Rise.
Glen David Andrews - Trombone, Trombone and Vocals
Jermal Watson - Drums
Barry Stephenson - Bass
Craig Adams - keyboards
Josh Starkman - Guitar
James Martin - Sax
Dumaine Street Blues
Walking Through Heaven's Gate
Glen also appears on:
New Birth Family
Rock Star (Like Mike)
Walking Through Heaven's Gate
I'll Fly Away
Old Time Religion w/ New Birth Brass Band
Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans
Down By The Riverside
St James Infirmary - Live w/ Paul Sanchez Rolling Road Show
Dumaine Street Blues
Glen David Andrews Planning New Album
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Glen David Andrews has only been back in New Orleans for a few months since completing an intens...
Glen David Andrews has only been back in New Orleans for a few months since completing an intensive drug rehabilitation program, but the trombonist and vocalist has already written and rehearsed enough material for a new record.
With support from Threadhead Records, Andrews plans to go into the studio in March with his regular band to make the album, which is based on his experiences during recovery and will be titled Redemption.
Six of the songs scheduled for the album were written during Andrews’ three months in rehab at Right Turn, an addiction recovery institute in Massachusetts dedicated to treating musicians. One of those songs, “Surrender,” has becomes a staple of Andrews’ live performances in recent weeks.
“When you wake up in the morning, think of three to five things that can do to make your life better,” Andrews told a packed crowd at d.b.a. on Lundi Gras, then proceeded into a powerful gospel-based performance of “Surrender.”
Andrews’ return has been an adjustment. His songs are much more tightly arranged and professional than they were in the amazing off-the-cuff nights that used to occur when he was under the influence. Back then watching Andrews often was like observing an Evel Knievel stunt, thrilling and astonishing as he leapt into the void and somehow managed to find his way to the other side on the sheer merit of his talent. Several songs on his Live at Three Muses album include such moments and give the album quite an edge. Now Andrews is more careful and precise, channeling the energy efficiently and staying within himself. The craziness of the night depends on the audience, and the Lundi Gras vibe was off the scale. Andrews, who has been studying to improve his trombone technique, is already a noticeably more accomplished player. At one point he and saxophonist James Martin left the stage and played an incendiary call-and-response as the crowd of revelers formed a circle around them and urged them on with shouts and waving arms.
“I don’t like how I sound on a lot of the Three Muses album,” Andrews said. “I wish I could re-cut some of those songs. I’m a lot stronger now, healthier, and it shows in my playing and singing.”
Andrews has lined up a series of New Orleans all-stars to guest on the record, including Ivan Neville, Irvin Mayfield and Paul Sanchez.
Frugal Traveler - In New Orleans, a Trio of Thrifty Lures
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It promised to be my easiest frugal assignment yet: five days in a paradise of cheap eating, cheaper...It promised to be my easiest frugal assignment yet: five days in a paradise of cheap eating, cheaper drinking and free music in the walking- and biking-friendly city — New Orleans. A self-imposed prohibition on dropping money in the touristy French Quarter would make things easier, even during the ramp-up to the Super Bowl, which the city is hosting Feb. 3, and to Mardi Gras Day, on Feb. 12.
But, as I soon learned, there was a catch. Seven years-plus after Hurricane Katrina, the city is full of vibrant neighborhoods, each with its own set of budget-friendly activities. I was set up at the Lookout Inn, a nice little hotel in the Bywater area, a quick bike ride east of the French Quarter. Using a bike and then a car (it rained much of the time I was there), I found getting around town easy. The challenge was going to be fitting in all of those activities. My days took on an exhilarating but frantic pace — powdering a $2 plate of beignets in City Park before rushing off to slurp a 25-cent martini during lunch in the Garden District not long before listening to free and mesmerizing music played by a star trombonist in the Marigny neighborhood a bit later.
So perhaps it is best to confine my favorites to three categories. New Orleans excels in all of them: music, food and local culture.
I hardly imagined that in this city of legendary musicians, the protagonist of my trip would be a local radio station, the ubiquitous WWOZ. It was recommended to me on my first day in town, and I soon noticed it everywhere. Any business with a radio seemed to have it tuned to that frequency, and it was the favorite local station of everyone I asked. Soon it became mine, too.
I could have planned my nightly itinerary based on WWOZ’s regular listings (which are read on-air and are available online) but I had already enlisted the help of Jay Mazza, a music writer who covers New Orleans for the blog thevinyldistrict.com.
Philip Melancon performs in a former church.Seth Kugel for The New York Times Philip Melancon performs in a former church.
His first piece of advice proved invaluable: paying a cover charge often pays off (literally) in New Orleans. There was a $10 cover for the concert I went to my first night, a benefit in a crumbling former Catholic Church in the Irish Channel neighborhood. The money went toward renovating the place; it also allowed me three drink tickets good for beer, wine or rum cocktails. Onstage, a silver fox of a singer and ukulele player named Philip Melancon performed funny twists on classic local tunes with what I can describe only as a New Orleans Catholic version of borscht belt gestalt. (“He counts the gray hairs around the room and plays songs they’ll know,” said a woman I sat near.)
But the best concert I saw cost nothing, at what has to be the best free venue in New Orleans, Three Muses on Frenchmen Street, in the Seventh Ward, just outside the French Quarter. Why? It’s intimate but not crowded. (While the staff members at the door don’t collect covers, they do count bodies, making sure there is always breathing space.) The performer was Glen David Andrews, a trombonist familiar to most locals, and fans of the HBO series “Treme,” but not to me. Dressed immaculately in a three-button beige suit, he played the crowd with as much finesse as he did his instrument. At one point he said, deadpan, “My name is Wynton Marsalis,” evoking chuckles. I turned to the guy next to me and asked, “Who is this guy?”
“The best performer in New Orleans,” he replied.
“Then why is it free?”
“Because this is New Orleans.”
Actually, by the end of the gig, I had spent a worthwhile $22: $5.50 ($1.50 tip) for an I.P.A. from NOLA Brewing Company and $15 for Mr. Andrews’s CD, “Live at Three Muses.”
The funk guitarist Walter (Wolfman) Washington performs at the Maple Leaf.Seth Kugel for The New York Times The funk guitarist Walter (Wolfman) Washington performs at the Maple Leaf.
And then came Sunday, my last night in town. I started at a spare bar called the Basin Street Lounge, where a bearer of the Mardi Gras Indian tradition known as Big Chief Darryl Montana was leading the Yellow Pocahontas tribe in a tambourine and chanting frenzy at one of the Sunday night rehearsals that lead up to Carnival. These rehearsals, like most things involving Mardi Gras Indians, are hard to track down. Jay had tipped me off; his advice to others is to ask in local clubs in the Treme or check in with Sylvester Francis, curator and all-out boss at the Backstreet Cultural Museum, also in the Treme (more on that terrific spot later).
Glen David Andrews tears up Congo Square with rock-star energy
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Glen David Andrews is a rock star. If that wasn't obvious from his high-energy, sweat-flinging stage...Glen David Andrews is a rock star. If that wasn't obvious from his high-energy, sweat-flinging stage presence, he has a guy to tell you that.
Toward the end of his Congo Square set, Andrews directed his band - anchored by former Dirty Dozen sousaphonist Julius McKee - into a brassy, psychedelic take on "Voodoo Child." In the middle of it, he was joined onstage by a sort of combination slam poet and hype man, who rhymed a lengthy paean to Andrews' stage prowess. "He's the 6th Ward Prince! The Duke of St. Philip Street! He blows brass and truth appears!"
As the poem went on, Andrews seemed bent on proving the accolades right. He hyped the crowd up with a "Who Dat" breakdown, flip-tossed his wireless mic and caught it in one hand, swung out a syncopated version of "Shake Rattle And Roll," and scatted, Satchmo-style, through a supercharged "Just A Closer Walk With Thee." All the while, the poet sung his praises.
As the "Shake Rattle & Roll" crescendoed, Andrews leapt from the stage and ran through the crowd, climbing up on the barricades. When he leapt off into the racetrack dirt at the side of the stage to roll on his back in a funk frenzy, the hype man finally gave up on trying to put the wildness into words.
"He's a f-in' rock star," he summarized.
Glen David Andrews at the New Orleans Jazz Fest
Trombonist Andrews electrifies the Jazz Fest Gospel Tent
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"CAN WE GET EVERYBODY UP!" shouted Glen David Andrews, stretching his arms towards the audience in t..."CAN WE GET EVERYBODY UP!" shouted Glen David Andrews, stretching his arms towards the audience in the Gospel Tent at Jazz Fest Friday. "SAY YEAH! SAY YEAH!"
The mob shouted back, "YEAH!"
The epitome of cool in gold-rimmed aviator shades, a white suit and black T-shirt glittering with silver and red, Andrews is one hot performer.
He played his trombone, sang, fell to his knees, raised his arms to heaven like Charlton Heston portraying Moses, punched the air and worked his audience into a frenzy.
"PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER!" He cupped his hand around his ear, listening to the crowd putting their hands together and singing with him. "THERE AIN'T NO SITTING DOWN AT THE GOSPEL TENT!"
His jacket off and pushing the air like a conductor at the grand finale of a Beethoven symphony, he started into Randy Travis' "Jesus on the Main Line," again beckoning the audience: "Everybody say, ' Jesus on the Main Line!' " They chanted the line, again and again, following with the next line, "Tell Him what you want," while Andrews played his trombone as if it were heralding the Second Coming.
Then it was back to singing, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine," interrupting himself to tell the crowd, "Let me hear you!" He pointed his microphone towards the audience.
Together, everyone sang, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!" I could feel the beat of the gospel fans thumping in my chest as this head cheerleader for God flung out his message and moved his seemingly bone-free body all over the stage.
In the front row, Judy Lockhart, 53, from the San Francisco Bay area, was clapping, singing and dancing with bent knees. She shout-whispered that this was her 18th consecutive Jazz Fest.
Sharing the stage Friday were members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, guitar player Paul Sanchez and Andrews' cousin Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, who wore a
simple red T-shirt and switched instruments, playing a trumpet this time.
The mood momentarily turned somber when Trombone Shorty launched into his soulful "We Shall Walk Through the Streets of the City," using his hand as a muffler on the trumpet, then blowing ear-piercing notes while his cousin shot his arm into the air.
Near the end, Glen David Andrews slowly started singing "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord," then exploded into the full "Battle Hymn of the Republic" while strutting through the seated crowd, fans with cameras shadowing him.
Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis came onstage to proclaim Andrews "One of the giant talents of New Orleans. He IS the gospel man!"
And as Davis left, Andrews shouted out one last time: "Is there anybody out there who wants a blessing?!" Throngs came forward. He high-fived them all and put his hand on their heads, sweat pouring down his face, still singing.
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New Orleans has a long history of amazing performers whose legend never completely translates to the...New Orleans has a long history of amazing performers whose legend never completely translates to the outside world. Somehow, Jazz Fest mediates between New Orleans and the outside world, and the moment when a local artist breaks through at the festival is a spectacular thing to witness. This fest it happened to Glen David Andrews, and when I say it happened to him, it was as if some otherworldly force took over him during a performance in the Gospel Tent that was completely transformative.
His latest album is a gospel session in which Andrews feels secondary to the events surrounding him. At the Gospel Tent, he was a combination of James Brown and Prince fronting an outstanding gospel band that included his cousin Troy Andrews on trumpet. He wore a white suit and immediately took emotional control of the tent, which was packed with almost all white festgoers who were definitely not regular sanctified worshippers. Andrews had them fervently chanting “Help Me Jesus” and screaming as he doffed the white coat with a flourish. He jumped into the crowd and created a frenzy on the floor. There were the usual photo flashers, but people were clamoring to touch him, to take a spark from this burning light of a spiritual force in their midst. “Anybody out there want a blessing?” He asked and they screamed affirmation; he was preaching and literally everyone was with him on the call-and-response “Thank you Jesus / Thank you Lord,” over and over again, ecstatic in what would be an intensely sexual way in any other setting.
At the close of his set, Andrews got the whole crowd singing “Glory, Glory Hallelujah,” jumped into the crowd again and suddenly Quint Davis was in center stage like he was going to talk Andrews to the end of the set: “This is New Orleans sanctified music,” Davis announced, “one of the great talents of New Orleans music, Glen David Andrews!” Andrews put his white coat back on as the band vamped. Looked like it’s over, but No! It was the end of the James Brown show, the white coat slipped off the shoulder and Andrews removed it in one powerful, sexually charged gesture. He danced again and had the crowd chanting. He and Troy were grinning like schoolkids, wrapped in each other’s arms until the MC finally regained control of the stage.
Walking Through Heaven's Gate Review
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As we make our way through the fourth year after the Federal flood, the burden of maintaining the ci...As we make our way through the fourth year after the Federal flood, the burden of maintaining the city’s historic culture has fallen on the shoulders of young artists who’ve been forced to assume the mantle of elders before their time. No one epitomizes this more dramatically than Glen David Andrews, who went from being one of the bad boys of the brass band culture to a steward of some of the city’s most revered institutions.
Walking Through Heaven’s Gate is a live performance at Zion Hill Baptist Church is a documentary, a tribute to the tangible as well as the symbolic importance of this music to the lives of people who’ve grown up in New Orleans. The gospel churches are often the strongest institutions in the poorest neighborhoods, and Zion Hill’s place in the Treme community has influenced countless New Orleans musicians. The material here is as traditional as gospel can get, but unlike much traditional music played in New Orleans; this is not aimed at tourists or conventioneers. It’s an attempt to provide the listener with a sense of what these services are like from the perspective of the people who attend them.
As a result, there is none of the false sincerity or showboating that mars so many of the rote performances of the Bourbon Street traditionalists. There is also a total lack of ego in the performance, which is very important in this music. Instead, it’s a collective product in which the anonymous choir’s contribution is more important than the outstanding solo turns performed by John Boutte (singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic”) and Troy Andrews (playing trumpet on “We Will Walk Through the Streets of the City” and “Family”). And though Glen David Andrews is the producer, arranger and principal vocalist, he is remarkably opaque throughout, just part of a family.
In any context, Andrews is a charismatic vocalist whose improvisational skills and command over any situation he’s involved in places him among the top ranks of New Orleans singers, so it’s not really surprising that he handles the gospel canon with the authority and persuasiveness of an experienced preacher. He has had his troubles over the years, and he really sells the idea of this music’s redemptive spirit. When he wards off the devil, it feels as animate as Robert Johnson’s blues encounters with a similar demon.
The ad hoc nature of this recording leaves some dead spaces, awkward transitions and big dynamic gaps in which certain sections are monumental, while others make you wonder what happened to your playback system. Though it’s hard not to suppose such problems could have been avoided, the raw power of the event itself makes this an important document and suggests that there are very few limits to the potential of Glen David Andrews’ vocal talent.
John Swenson March 2009
The Gospel According to Glen David Andrews
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On New Orleans, jazz culture, and a renewed America... When trombonist Glen David Andrews sang "I...On New Orleans, jazz culture, and a renewed America...
When trombonist Glen David Andrews sang "I'll Fly Away" during a memorial procession to honor tuba player Kerwin James in late 2007, on North Robertson Street in New Orleans's Tremé neighborhood, he ended up in handcuffs along with his brother, snare drummer Derrick Tabb. The charges, eventually dropped, included parading without a permit and "disturbing the peace in tumultuous manner," and the incident fit part of a larger pattern of intimidation and stepped-up regulation of time-honored black street-culture traditions in that city since Katrina.
Andrews offered up that same hymn near the end of Spike Lee's 2006 documentary "When the Levees Broke," changing up the final verse to state, "New Orleans will never go away." "A declaration," he called it, in a moment of existential doubt for an entire city.
Andrews showed up again, in "Shake the Devil Off," filmmaker Peter Entell's 2007 chronicle of the post-Katrina fight to keep open St. Augustine church in Tremé, the oldest black neighborhood in this country, one that's long been a hothouse for jazz culture. (St. Aug is "The only parish in the United States whose free people of color bought two outer rows of pews exclusively for slaves to use for worship," according to the bronze plaque near its door.) In Entell's film, as activists gathered, the camera closed in on Andrews. He raised his trombone to play--you guessed it--"I"ll Fly Away," serving there as an urgent call-to-arms.
Onstage at Tipitina's in New Orleans tonight, as Martin Luther King Day ends, on the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration, Andrews will likely perform the hymn yet again, this time in an empowered moment of profound hope -- for real change in the fortunes of his country, his city, and his beloved Tremé neighborhood, as well as his own career and personal life. "I'll Fly Away" is among the ten stirring tracks on Andrews's new CD, "Walking Through Heaven's Gate," recorded in concert at Zion Hill Baptist Church--where Andrews was baptized, just down the street from the scene of that 2007 arrest. It's a powerful gospel album filled with the repertoire Andrews "learned while sitting in the third pew back," he says, and it testifies that much of what we celebrate as jazz culture grew out of black churches, in places like Tremé.
When I first met him in March 2006, Andrews could scarcely look up as he described his months "in exile" in Houston and the FEMA trailer he was sharing with cousins. "I feel ground down," he said. The following January, he looked out confidently from the podium during a thousands-strong march to City Hall organized by the local nonprofit Silence is Violence, following the murders of brass-band musician Dinerral Shavers and artist Helen Hill. "We are young black men preaching culture," Andrews shouted, following which a chant erupted: "Music in the school!" And at last year's New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, he bounded down from the stage, gazed up toward the sky and gleefully announced, "It's my time."
Andrews takes the Tipitina's stage tonight around the same time another son of New Orleans, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, joins former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at the Kennedy Center for "A Celebration of America." According to that event's promotional materials, "An all-star cast will illustrate that American democracy and America's music jazz share the same tenets and embody the same potential for change, hope and renewal, which Dr. King himself called 'America's triumphant music.'"
Nowhere in this country is the sense of jazz as a living culture--informing and uplifting daily life, transcending troubles and resisting subjugation, seeding renewal--as in New Orleans, where it has been said that "culture comes from the bottom up." If this music is indeed triumphant, it finds itself embattled still in its birthplace, which is itself in many ways fighting for its life.
I'd been coming to New Orleans for 20 years as a jazz critic and arts reporter. But I didn't really grasp the city's jazz culture until I began living there for months at a stretch during the past three years--dancing in second-lines, walking in funeral processions, tracking Mardi Gras Indians hen they took to the streets, seeking out the gigs that weren't advertised, or simply following the sound of a drum or a horn. Just as important to my still-limited understanding have been church services, school-band rehearsals, community rallies and street-corner conversations.
In many such contexts, the remarkable singing voice and commanding trombone sound (both powerful, direct, resonant, and with just enough rasp) as well as the disarmingly honest talk of Glen David Andrews have been consistent presences, sending out whatever the situation calls for--beauty, truth, compassion, anger, joy, or all of the above. In that, Andrews is both special and just one of a long line of blood relatives, neighbors and musical ancestors.
Andrews has made no secret of his struggles, whether thrust upon him or created by his own poor judgment. Yet through his talent and swagger, his passion and pride, and even his missteps, Andrews mirrors the city at large. "I'm trying to change how people look at me," he said recently, and I know in that sentiment he is not alone in New Orleans.
One recent sunny Monday, the morning after his live recording and the day before he headed off to a California-based rehab center, Andrews sat on a picnic table, his long legs dangling. It was the very spot of his funeral-procession arrest, now a grassy lot dotted with tables and benches. A freshly painted sign read, "Tuba Fats Square," in honor of a musician Andrews considers at the top of his long list of mentors: This was his community's response to that October evening--when 20 police cruisers flooded an intersection in order to bust up a procession and made the corner look more like a murder scene than that of a communal ritual.
"We were singing, lifting our voices to God," Andrews said. "You gonna tell me that's wrong?" He wondered about the future of the well his music draws from--the same one Marsalis and O'Connor will tap at the Kennedy Center tonight. "From St. Bernard all the way to the bayou, there was a bar on every corner with live music and a great juke box. That's just about disappeared," he said. "Still, to wake up or just sit here in the Sixth Ward in New Orleans is still to be blessed."
Glen David Andrews's story filled many column inches in the New Orleans Times-Picayune after his wrongful arrest back in 2007. Those news pieces and editorials were necessary and important. He deserves at least as much attention right now, free and unencumbered by controversy, sharing his inherited blessings. It's his time.
And it's time as well to honor the jazz culture of New Orleans, which is quite literally a triumphant gift to this country--one that informed the content of the characters of both Dr. King and President-elect Obama--in the most fitting way: By placing the city's still-pressing needs squarely on the agenda of a new administration. So musicians like Andrews will be supported, not cuffed, when leading a procession. And so the young musicians who so eagerly fall in line behind him will have a place in our parades tomorrow.
Can I get an amen?
Trombonist Glen David Andrews gets that old time religion on his new CD
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Keith Spera January 16, 2009 As a son of Treme and veteran of the Olympia, New Birth, Treme and L...Keith Spera January 16, 2009
As a son of Treme and veteran of the Olympia, New Birth, Treme and Lil Rascals brass bands, trombonist Glen David Andrews has a long history with second-line jazz. But on his new "Walking Through Heaven's Gate" CD, he hews closely to a program of straight-up traditional gospel.
"When I'm singing for God," Andrews said this week, "that's the only thing that's better than a second-line.
"This is a personal record. This is like doing my first record all over. It's got hints of jazz and funk, but overall it's a church record."
Andrews and his band celebrate the release of "Walking Through Heaven's Gate" with a headlining show Monday, Jan. 19 at Tipitina's; Paul Sanchez's Rolling Road Show opens.
Andrews is not particularly sentimental; it was not his idea to book the gig on Martin Luther King Day and the eve of President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration. But he plans to make the most of it.
"At midnight, we'll do 'The Star Spangled Banner' followed by 'Lift Every Voice and Sing,' the black national anthem," Andrews said. "I want to do my part. I want to scream 'Obama' at the top of my lungs. But most of all, I'm going to scream, 'Buy the record.'"
At 28, having led his own band at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for the first time in 2008, Andrews continues to build his brand name.
He hails from a large family of musicians, but his early years found him drawn to trouble as well as music. His cousin, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, suggested he take up the trombone. It was a good fit, thanks in part to the tutelage of neighborhood musicians. Soon enough Andrews was playing for tips alongside Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen in the French Quarter.
Michael DeMocker / Times-Picayune Archive"I wanted to capture the true essence of a Baptist church," said Glen David Andrews of his new record. "People like that old-time Southern gospel music that I was born and raised in. The same way I heard it in church, I wanted to put it on record."
His first two independent albums featured traditional jazz. "Walking Through Heaven's Gate" acknowledges the church music that is his legacy. Relatives, he says, helped found Zion Hill Baptist Church in Treme in 1918; his mom works as the church secretary.
Zion, then, was the obvious place to record his album, in front of a raucous congregation.
"I wanted to catch the 'amens' and 'ahhs,'" Andrews said. "You can't get that in the studio. You only can catch real emotion in church when you're really at the church. That's what I told everybody, that even though we're doing a record with arrangements, we're coming up in here to have church. So if you feel like shaking a tambourine in the middle of a song, start shaking it."
Like recent albums by John Boutte and Paul Sanchez, "Walking Through Heaven's Gate" was funded via Threadhead Records. The coalition of Jazz Fest fans from around the country loans money to musicians for recordings. The money is then repaid from CD sales.
For the Nov. 18 recording, Andrews included a gospel choir, his regular band -- drummer Eugene Harding, bassist John Reynolds, trombonist Revert "Peanut" Andrews and guitarist Matt Clark -- and a handful of guests.
Sanchez co-wrote the title track with Andrews and contributed acoustic guitar. John Boutte sang on "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Troy Andrews played on "We Will Walk Through the Streets of the City." Spoken-word artist Chuck Perkins weighed in on the final "Family," painting a picture of childhood tranquillity.
Horns were kept to a minimum, so as not to edge the recording into R&B territory.
"I wanted to capture the true essence of a Baptist church," Andrews said. "Nothing against contemporary gospel, but I think people like that old-time Southern gospel music that I was born and raised in. The same way I heard it in church, I wanted to put it on record. Right now I'm feeling the gospel thing."
Not that you'll find him in the pews every Sunday. "They beat it into me so much (as a boy) that I don't go too regularly," he said. "I don't think I live a perfect life -- I'm not trying to live a perfect life. But I try to live a humble and modest life within God's eyesight."
To that end, Andrews flew to Los Angeles early on the morning after recording "Walking Through Heaven's Gate," where he spent a month in a sober living facility.
"It was pretty cool," he said. "I needed some education on what was going on in my life and I needed to touch on some very hard issues.
"It was time to kick all the bad habits. I knew that when it was time I was going to make the decision on my own to do it. I don't wish I would have did it earlier; I don't wish I would have did it later. I'm just happy I did it."
While in rehab, he listened to rough cuts of his forthcoming album. He liked what he heard.
"With a gospel record, and what I've been through in my life recently, I'm on a spiritual journey. I'm at peace with my life right now. I'm getting more opportunities than I ever thought. My thing for 2009 is to be grateful."
Glen David Andrews @ Tipitina's
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2008 saw some excellent gospel releases from New Orleans artists who aren't necessarily ecclesiastic...2008 saw some excellent gospel releases from New Orleans artists who aren't necessarily ecclesiastical types. Drummer Joe Lastie Jr.'s Lastie Family Gospel on the Preservation Hall label was one, and Allen Toussaint and a team of local jazz all-stars collaborating with the Blind Boys of Alabama on the Grammy-nominated Down In New Orleans was another. The newest release from brass band stalwart Glen David Andrews, Walking Through Heavern's Gate, is another argument that churchly spirit is an undeniable anchor of New Orleans roots music – and that it swings.
In Tremé, the Andrews family is shaping up to be the city's Marsalis or Neville clan of brassy, street-parade funk. Glen David shares a gene pool (and probably Thanksgiving dinner) with James (Crescent City Allstars), Troy (Trombone Shorty), Glen and Revert "Peanut" Andrews, both of the Rebirth Brass Band. Glen David, who honed his horn playing in Jackson Square with the late Tuba Fats, has proved himself a versatile musician who can switch from original hip-hop-infused funk to brass classics, and though Walking Through Heavern's Gate's track list is straight-up traditional gospel, it bubbles over with manifold sounds of New Orleans. Recorded live at Zion Hill Baptist Church in November, the record features invocations, church organ and a full gospel choir (plus guest spots from Troy Andrews and John Boutté) and as such, definitely looks heavenward, but the unmistakable stamp of Andrews' scratchy baritone holler keeps it high-stepping in street style. Paul Sanchez's Rolling Road Revue opens. Tickets $10.
— Alison Fensterstock
Andrews latest CD takes him back to his roots
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On his new album, Walking Through Heaven’s Gate, Glen Andrews proves once again that his soul remain...On his new album, Walking Through Heaven’s Gate, Glen Andrews proves once again that his soul remains deep into old school. The trombonist/vocalist went straight to his roots to record the gospel CD at the Zion Hill Baptist Church in the Tremé neighborhood where he grew up.
“I was born and raised in that church,” Andrew declares. “It’s not only my musical connection to the Tremé, but my spiritual connection too. I know everybody in that church and everybody in that church knows me. They are my family; they are my friends. My grandmother and great-grandmother have been in the Tremé a long time—my grandparents had a big hand in founding that church.”
Andrews, who, incidentally, has discontinued using his middle name, David, has been blowing trombone since age 13. He remains best recognized on the brass band and traditional jazz scenes. As a youngster, he honed his chops at the side of his idol, Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen out in Jackson Square and with Tuba’s band the Chosen Few as well as with the Olympia Brass Band. He continues playing in those styles that have always relied on gospel tunes as part of their repertoire.
“I do have a particular fondness for gospel,” Andrews says. “I perform gospel in every last one of my shows. The main thing is that I didn’t want to another brass band album. I think I’ve gone as far as I’m going to go with the brass band thing as far as recording. I want to record every style of music that I feel comfortable doing. Right now I’m comfortable doing that good-old gospel music. It’s kind of like doing traditional jazz – it’s the beginning of it. Nobody expected me to do a gospel record – nobody. So I really wanted to come out of left field and I think I succeeded in doing that.”
Andrews’ choice of material for the disc—tunes like “Jesus on the Mainline, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “Rock of Ages”—also speaks of his love of and dedication to tradition. With his powerful and emotion-packed voice backed by his band and the church choir led by the dynamic organ of Charisse Mason, “Walking Through Heaven’s Gate” becomes one big hallelujah.
The title tune, an original by Andrews and guitarist Paul Sanchez, fits naturally among the classics. It opens quietly with Andrews accompanied simply by the organ. It and then takes off swinging.
Andrews calls in several special guests vocalist John Boutte to sing a stirring rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” On a rousing “We Will Walk Through the Streets of the City, Andrews vocals wonderfully interact with the trumpet his cousin, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. The album and the service end stirringly with the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as poet Chuck Perkins recites a moving poem about families.
In celebration of the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Andrews plans to perform this song at the stroke of midnight at his gig at Tipitina’s on January 19th—Martin Luther King Day.
“It’s a very special Martin Luther King Day considering everything that’s going on the next day,” Andrews declares. “There’s a lot of Black pride and American pride going around and I’m glad I’m a part of it. I’m relishing in it too. It’s a very positive thing to do a spiritual record at the shrine under Professor Longhair.”
At Tip’s, Andrews will take the music from “the church to the barroom,” performing all of the material from the album and then get into some funkier stuff. His usual Monday night haunt is d.b.a. where he mixes it up starting at 10 p.m. Andrews can also still be found blowin’ his bone and singing at second-line parades, most often with the Tremé and New Birth brass bands. This is usually where his signature improvisational prowess really takes off. It’s a style that he says he learned from both local musicians and from watching videos and listening to recordings by Louis Armstrong.
“In the Sixth Ward I’ve been around a lot of musicians and a lot of them—like Uncle Lionel (Batiste) are storytellers. Those people improvise and make faces and tell stories all day long. I think that’s kind of where I got it from—all those old men on the corner in front of the Caldonia who were just clowns. I just watched them clowning and I learned how to apply it to music. So I got it naturally but I did watch some of the best improvisers like Danny Barker and James Andrews.”
Whether he’s clowning at a second line or singing and testifying at the over 90-year-old Zion Hill Baptist Church, Glen Andrews, brings a similar, natural spirit. It’s the spirit of the neighborhood where he was born and nurtured. It’s the spirit of those who came before.
As he once said, “To continue to preserve the tradition, you have to learn the music and the tradition the right way because you have to earn these stripes.”
I'll Fly Away
Over In The Gloryland
Dumaine St. Blues
I Can't Give You Anything But Love
After You've Gone
Down By The Riverside
Jesus on the Mainline
Closer Walk With Thee
Sunny Side of the Street
When You're Smilin'
That's A Plenty
Am I Blue
Alexander's Ragtime Band
Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans
Make Me A Pallet On The Floor
What A Friend We Have In Jesus
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