Monday, June 29, 2015

Teacher learned about New Orleans 'specialness'

By Mark Guarino


The roots of Melanie Deffendall’s family go deep in New Orleans. Her ancestors arrived in the city in 1721 and generations since have stayed put. Before Katrina hit and the levees broke, she was enjoying a life she established in Gentilly Woods: gardening, enjoying her home, and teaching at nearby Delgado Community College. On May 5, 2006, her son Benjamin interviewed her about her past, the impact of the storm and what lay ahead. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.

Benjamin Deffendall: Mom, what was it like to live in New Orleans during the ’50s and ’60s?
Melanie Deffendall: I was telling my coworkers about the wagons that used to come down the street when I was 4 or 5. We had the waffle wagon, the rag wagon, the vegetable and fruit wagon. So it was a simpler time than it is now. We didn’t have a TV until I was about 5, which was OK. We lived in a working-class neighborhood. Segregation was still in place. We always lived in neighborhoods that were mixed, black and white. Different streets, but in close proximity to each other. I don’t know, I just don’t want to live anywhere else. I will probably stay here until we all have to leave. When you visit other places, you realize how different New Orleans is. Even at my age, I didn’t realize how different it was until we had to evacuate.
BD: What is it about New Orleans that makes you not want to leave?
MD: I think it’s because we have such a different attitude about things. If you think about all the hurricanes that have devastated Florida and Texas and Mississippi, nobody’s had blue tarp fashion shows, nobody’s had comedy on gutted refrigerators that you don’t dare open. People look at things differently here. They’re more relaxed, more laid back. I think it’s just a way of life and an attitude that attracts people to come here but they don’t take it home. And we just try to enjoy life. Not do things so rigidly.
BD: Tell me about your family.
MD: My family had a lot of characters. My grandmother and her sister were named Thelma and Louise. They ran liquor over to the Gulf Coast during Prohibition for money. My mother had one leg, she had a brother with one arm, and another brother who was deaf.
My dad made false teeth. And when I was a kid he would bring home all kinds of people that didn’t have teeth. There was a guy on Canal Street with no legs and he was on a little platform on wheels and he sold pencils during the day. But he didn’t have teeth so my dad brought him home. We lived in a house with stairs. And he had these two blocks of wood with handles and he would pull himself up the stairs like that. Well my mother had one leg but we didn’t know anybody with no legs. So we were just fascinated.
We had two old ladies that used to come that my dad made teeth for. And they would come every week to get them adjusted. They would bring stuff from the bakery. So we were always glad to see them. One day my dad said to me, “Go downstairs.” He had a laboratory down in the basement of the house. And he said, “Have a seat.” He didn’t do a thing to the teeth, all he did was clean them. He sat down and smoked a cigarette, took them back upstairs. They would say, “Oh, much better.” It was just an outing for them. Then we had another friend of my dad’s who was a plumber. He could do pushups with all four of us sitting on his back. We were really impressed because he was only about 5 feet tall but he was really strong.
[Jazz clarinetist] Pete Fountain was a friend of your grandfather’s. They grew up in the same neighborhood. When he finished playing a gig, he would go by grannie’s house. They were all younger. He would bring hot French bread and she’d make the coffee and they would sit up and just drink coffee and eat French bread. Two or three o’clock in the morning. They didn’t mind that.
BD: How has your life been different than you imagined?
MD: Since last August it has quite a bit different. We had a complete lifestyle change, all of us. You leave your house with three days worth of clothes and expect maybe two weeks without electricity. Then the storm passes and you wake up to find out how it’s going and find your entire city is under water. I don’t think the total catastrophic nature of the event sunk in. So we are still trying to figure out, “now what?”
I thought I had a pretty comfortable life. I was pretty set, liked my house, liked my yard, the garden was pretty good. Now I have studs in the roof. Furniture from other people, donations. I really don’t have a place to keep them because I don’t know what to do with my house until they tell us what we can do. Then FEMA says if you rebuild and you don’t meet code, we can fine you. We have nothing, and you’re going to fine us for fixing our house so we have a place to live?
Most of us feel like gypsies. We have things here, there and everywhere. It’s a hard time. And people are not getting better mentally. They are getting worse.
BD: What was the most important lesson you learned?
MD: Stuff is not important at all. It’s nice to have things, but it’s the people and your relationships with people. They don’t have anything either. They’re as wiped out as we are. But they share. Whatever you have, you just share with everybody else. I think people have now a new love for New Orleans. All things New Orleans, we have to go. If you have French Quarter Fest, people show up, Jazz Fest, people go. Small concerts, people go. People are going out and trying to be with other people. Because of course it’s not nice to be at your house now.
BD: What do you want to say to people about all of this?
MD: You can’t give up. You have to come back and you have to make it right. You can’t keep out whole sections of the population because you think they’re not worthy or poor or uneducated, or have some kind of past you don’t like. Everybody should be able to come back. I don’t think housing projects are a good thing, but they could have repaired some of those housing projects much easier than they dragged all those trailers in here.
It’s the people who make New Orleans. It’s not the place so much. You can’t transplant yourself somewhere else; it just doesn’t work. We have to join together. We need to get some clear answers. We all feel we have no leadership whatsoever. So everyone’s out there doing their own thing and we’re not moving forward as fast as we should. We feel great abandonment by the government. We don’t have enough mental health professionals here. People are really wigging out. We need help.
BD: Anything else you want to say?
MD: Let’s talk about All Saint’s Day. That bothered me a lot this year. I always went to the cemetery and put flowers. And I couldn’t. And it was my job to carry that forward. It was a big day, you got dressed up, you went to the cemetery and you went out to eat. It’s really pretty because the flowers are all over the whole place. Couldn’t get in there this year. I guess when I die you’ll have to do it. Because no one else does.
Deffendall returned to work at Delgado, where she teaches sociology and created the Irma Thomas Center for Women in Search of Excellence that empowers female students to stay in school and on a path to success.
Even though she says she is “dreading” the 10-year anniversary of Katrina, she finds she often talks about her experience with students. The stories, she believes, need to be told.
“I don’t think it helps me, I think it helps them,” she said. “For me, it’s like picking at a scab. Once you do it, things start bubbling up really fast. I think that’s true for a lot of us.”
It took three years for Deffendall, 63, to return to her home, which took more than four feet of water. Those early years of living in a FEMA trailer took perseverance but she says she is encouraged that her neighborhood is now just starting to look better. Abandoned lots are being purchased and empty homes are getting occupied.
But to her, New Orleans still has a long way to go. “I really don’t think we’re there yet,” she says. “I had a plan that my house would be paid for when I was retired. But now I will die probably owing money on this house,” she said. “Katrina had long-term effects that people don’t think about.”

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Harold Battiste, composer, producer, dies


Harold Battiste, the prolific New Orleans jazz musician whose work as a composer, producer and arranger helped shape the careers of Sonny and Cher, Sam Cooke, Dr. John and dozens of others, died Friday. He was 83.
Friends and family posted news of Battiste's death after a lengthy illness.
As a producer and arranger, Battiste was the man behind a string of number one hits by artists locally and nationally, including Barbara George's "I Know (You Don t Love Me No More)", Joe Jones' "You Talk Too Much," Lee Dorsey's "Ya Ya" and Sam Cooke's "You Send Me."
After moving to Los Angeles in the 1970s (where he spent 30 years in the music industry), he also shaped the early careers of Sonny and Cher, the singing duo with whom he worked for 15 years, earning them six gold records. Battiste also acted as musical director on their television series. He also made the arrangement and led the band for "I Got You Babe," the No. 1, million-selling song that made Sonny and Cher a hit recording act in the summer of 1965.
"Sonny wouldn't do anything without me," Battiste told The Advocate music writer John Wirt in a 2010 interview. "Sonny knew what I could do better than I knew. He told me, 'Man, you're better than most of these cats out here!' But I didn't know that anything that I did had that much value. I got $125 for 'I Got You Babe.' That's all."
According to Wirt, Battiste didn't reap big financial rewards from Sonny and Cher, but his work with the duo did mean he could fulfill his highest priority, supporting his family. He also genuinely liked Bono, Wirt wrote.
"He was a beautiful cat," Battiste said. "And he just wouldn't let me go. I didn't want to do that television show. But Sonny said, 'Look, Harold. Come and just do three shows.' 'OK, I'll try it.' And the producer really liked the music that I wrote and the opening show was wonderful. I said, 'Well, this is interesting, so I'm going to stick it out.' "
In addition to the artists above, Battiste's dozens of credits include the O'Jays, the Fifth Dimension's Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, New Orleans' Art Neville, Larry Williams, Lee Dorsey, Eddie Bo, King Floyd and Willie Tee.
Battiste also played a key role in helping New Orleans music icon Mac Rebennack develop his Dr. John stage persona in the 1960s and 1970s, producing the singer/pianist's early albums.
"His mama called me when he was on his way out to California. She said, 'Look out for him, because he can't come back to New Orleans.' But I had known him since he was a youngster. He came to me when I was still working with Specialty Records in New Orleans, about 15, 16 years old, when he was a clean-cut little Catholic boy," Battiste said in the 2010 interview.
Battiste worked with the bevy of New Orleans musicians who were in Los Angeles at the time to help craft the "Dr. John" persona, based on a character conjured from voodoo legend.
"That was the key to when I did the Dr. John thing," Battiste explained. "I just had to get a bunch of New Orleans people. I knew that we would make the vibe that we wanted." Dr. John the Night Tripper made his well-received debut in February 1968 with the mystically joyful Gris-Gris. Battiste arranged and produced more Dr. John projects, 1969's Babylon and 1972's landmark homage to New Orleans rhythm-and-blues, Gumbo.
A native of New Orleans and graduate of Dillard University, Battiste also worked early on as a teacher in the public school system. Later, as a music educator he also helped establish the jazz studies program at the University of New Orleans (alongside Marsalis) and can count among his proteges the Marsalis children (Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason) as well as Nicholas Payton, Victor Goines and others. Battiste also lectured on jazz studies at UNO and established the AFO Foundation to help preserve and document the heritage of New Orleans music.
Battiste was the subject of a 2010 memoir co-written by Karen Celestan and published by The Historic New Orleans Collection, titled "Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man."
"I worked on it about eight years, man," he said in The Advocate interview. "But I never thought anybody would publish it!"
Battiste said he felt overwhelmed upon seeing the book for the first time.
"It brought tears to my eyes," he said in the music studio in his small New Orleans apartment. "Seeing myself like that, in a book, I realized I didn't know who I was. It was that profound to me. I said, 'Did I really do all that?'"

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Love letter to New Orleans

Dear America: I guess we should reintroduce ourselves. We’re still New Orleans.”
Prize-winning writer Chris Rose stood on the small stage in a gallery in the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, reading words resembling those he had penned from the Baton Rouge airport almost 10 years earlier.
He recalled the days after Hurricane Katrina came barreling through the Gulf of Mexico, bringing with it floodwaters that killed more than 1,800 people and devastated the city he had learned to call home.
“It’s been 10 years since we showed up on your doorsteps unannounced, unprepared and, in many cases, unwilling,” Rose said, eliciting tears, laughter and the occasional “Yeah, you right!” from attentive spectators.
“But please take it as no insult that most of us did come back, like we promised we would,” he continued. “You’ve got your own music and food and rituals that make you happy, and if there’s anything we understand here, it’s an unconditional allegiance to our foods, our music and our rituals.”
The piece, a love letter to New Orleans, was a follow-up to the introduction published in “1 Dead in Attic,” the collection of short articles he wrote in 2005 as a journalist for The Times-Picayune. It also served as an introduction to “Love, Write, Light,” a crowdsourcing and fundraising campaign launching Monday in anticipation of Katrina’s anniversary.
The idea behind the campaign is to give New Orleanians a voice and the opportunity to share stories of joy, heartache, love and triumph of the city’s recovery through letters and photographs, according to David Morris, one of the organizers behind the project.
“It’s an indirect answer to the question that the city does a great job of answering: Why rebuild?” said Morris, who serves as the executive director of Evacuteer, a nonprofit designed to help residents evacuate safely, and for free, in the face of a future storm. “We want to capture some of that magic.”
But “Love, Write, Light” isn’t just a way for people to tell stories. It’s also tied to a fundraiser initiated by Evacuteer, a project co-founded by local journalist and photographer Robert X. Fogarty.
Money raised from the project will help light up statues erected in 17 locations, called “evacuspots,” around the city, so they’re visible 24 hours a day. People needing help in evacuating are supposed to gather at those spots.
The project also marks the first time that Evacuteer has partnered with “Dear World,” Fogarty’s messages-on-skin photography project that has gotten international acclaim for its work with survivors of natural disasters, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Syrian refugee crisis.
“It accomplishes something that’s going to be different as we ramp up to the 10th anniversary: How do we strike a balance between respectful reflection on what happened and paying homage to what we lost, and showcasing progress?” Morris said. “This is the sweet spot.”

Letters of love, heartache

Although the campaign officially kicks off Monday, Fogarty and his team have been working for months to gather letters from New Orleanians reflecting on the city 10 years after Katrina.
On Saturday, during a preview event held for the campaign, Rose spoke about the things that have always made New Orleans special. He praised the city’s culture — a place “where music falls from the sky like rain” — and the smells, like coffee, sweet olive and fried fish.
“Educated folks like to call that the lure of indigenous culture,” Rose said in his slow, metered cadence. “We just call it home.”
He also acknowledged the city’s changes, mentioning “Hollywood South,” proposed sound ordinances, smoking bans and the effort to jail corrupt politicians. And he praised the spirit of the people who rolled up their sleeves and rebuilt in the face of adversity, doubt and fear.
“It’s always been one of New Orleans’ unique charms, the way it changes so much, so fast and so often, and yet it remains exactly the same,” he added. “It’s the glorious paradox of life here in the city where irony is a birthright.”
Rose wasn’t the only one called to share his letter. Some, like his, were uplifting and hopeful — such as one by a firefighter who felt it was fate that brought him back to Louisiana after Katrina so he could meet the Xavier student who would eventually become his wife.
And Brandan “BMike” Odums, a local artist and producer, wrote in his letter how he was inspired by how New Orleanians took their struggles and managed to make them into something beautiful.
“That’s what the culture of New Orleans has been able to do so well historically, traditionally,” Odums wrote. “I think we’ve found ways to take the pain, take the struggle, and make it valuable, make it art — whether you call it art, or call it music, or call it soul.”

‘A punch in the gut’

Other experiences, when read out loud, felt like what Morris called “a punch in the gut,” such as Xavier University professor Joseph K. Byrd, who recalled such profound violence as he was trying to evacuate his students that he feared they wouldn’t all make it out of the city alive.
After the water began rising at the Xavier campus, where Byrd stayed with about 100 students who had been unable to evacuate, they eventually made their way to Interstate 10.
There, he said, the situation went from bad to “horrifying” as people brandished guns and knives, trapped while waiting for buses to carry them to safety.
Amidst the chaos were his students, and the wounded: A man with no legs struggled to keep himself dry with a tarp as the rain kept coming down.
“A National Guardsman said, ‘We’re going to come back with the buses,’ and he asked me a strange question,” Byrd recalled. “He said, ‘How should we come back?’ And I said, ‘Come back ready.’ I guess he understood because when the Jeeps came back, they came back with men with M16 rifles.”
Another reader, a blind woman, recalled how she returned to help her community, only to then go deaf from the toxic mold that had infiltrated her neighborhood.
But even she said she couldn’t imagine her life anywhere besides New Orleans.
“Even if I had known I was going to be deaf-blind, I would have come back,” said Rox’e Homstad. “I would rather be deaf-blind in New Orleans than hearing and sighted anywhere else, because this is where I belong.”

Raising funds

Like Homstad or Byrd or Rose, anyone from around the world can share their feelings about the city on the free website,
Ultimately, Fogarty and the rest of the Evacuteer and “Dear World” crew are hoping that those who contribute letters will also be inspired to contribute funds or volunteer for a project that was started three years ago but never quite finished.
In a move that Mayor Mitch Landrieu called “integral to the city’s emergency response plan,” Evacuteer installed public statues at each of the 17 neighborhood pickup points for a new emergency plan that replaced the idea of using the Superdome and Convention Center as “shelters of last resort.”
Reaching 14 feet high, the 800-pound, stainless steel “Evacuspot” sculptures are located around the city. Shaped like a man waving his hand, they signal to the roughly 35,000 people who don’t have access to transportation where to go in order to get a free ride out of town.
During an emergency, volunteers will staff the spots and help residents board RTA buses, which will bring them to the Union Passenger Terminal. There, the volunteers will help manage lines and load luggage into chartered buses to take the residents out of town.
The problem, Fogarty said, is that the Evacuspot sculptures aren’t lit at night.
“The core strategy of public art as a place to meet is that people who are waiting for the bus, or reading the paper, or leaning up against it, they know what this man means,” Fogarty said, pointing to an image of the statue. “We are recognizing that we are missing tens of millions of impressions per year” because the sculptures aren’t clearly visible at night.
To light the statues, Evacuteer members are trying to raise $250,000. They’re encouraging donations on the website and asking volunteers to underwrite the cost of dinner parties, where guests can pay anywhere from $100 to $500 per person to attend.
“If we can double the amount of impressions by lighting them, it’s an honor and a tribute to those we lost and left behind 10 years ago,” Fogarty said. “It’s about adding a positive and real change to make sure this never happens again.”
Morris agreed.
“This is the lesson learned,” he said.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Napoleon House changes guard

Friday will be a momentous day in the history of the Napoleon House, as the French Quarter landmark is slated to officially change hands from the Impastato family that founded it generations ago to local restaurateur Ralph Brennan.
Don’t expect much public fanfare, however, or even a change of pace as the plate-sized muffulettas and hazy Pimm’s Cup cocktails continue to make the rounds of its famously evocative dining room and courtyard.
“Hopefully, no one will notice the difference,” Brennan said. “We really don’t want to disrupt anything.”
Since the planned sale of the Napoleon House was announced in late March, Brennan has maintained that he’ll bring a light touch to the historic Chartres Street property, with the goal of preserving the character that makes the restaurant and bar so idiosyncratic and distinctive, even by the high standards of the French Quarter. Once the sale is finalized on Friday, Brennan said, the Napoleon House will simply continue with business as usual.
Initially, there will be only a few new faces. Brennan tapped Chris Montero, formerly his chef and general manager at Cafe B, to run the Napoleon House, and he’ll be joined by a team of three new chefs and managers drawn from Brennan’s company.
Montero has spent much of April working at the Napoleon House, essentially shadowing proprietor Sal Impastato to learn the particularities of the operation. Even with the sale completed, Impastato, his wife, Vivian, and sisters Maria Impastato and Jane Lala will stay on for a few weeks to lend more continuity to the change.
“They’re wonderful people, and they have a great tradition, and we’re honored that they picked us to continue it,” Brennan said.
The Napoleon House property was built as a mansion for a New Orleans mayor, Nicholas Girod, in 1814, when the city was just emerging from its colonial era. The Impastatos first operated a grocery there in 1914, when the French Quarter was a bastion of Italian immigrants.
From there, they gradually developed it into a bar and later a restaurant. After a century of ownership, the family was looking for a buyer to take over and continue the business, and Impastato said a mutual friend and accountant connected him with Brennan.
While Impastato acknowledged that some of his staff and customers were apprehensive about the change in ownership, he said the slow approach Brennan has promised and Montero’s efforts to learn the operation have made a difference.
“They’re coming in with people who have worked together a long time, so I think that’s going to help,” Impastato said. “We’re proud of this place; we always wanted it to grow, and I think they can do that.”
Montero and Brennan said an obvious area for growth is in banquets and private events. While the ground-floor rooms and courtyard are the best-known features, they constitute only a fraction of the total property, which has two more floors, an attic and wings that surround the courtyard. Some of these areas are now configured as small apartments.
The Napoleon House has long held private functions in a second-floor ballroom, though on a limited schedule. Montero said there is much more potential for these types of events in the future. The menu and operating hours may be up for revision, too, but Montero said any such changes will be decided later.
The Napoleon House will be the eighth restaurant for Brennan’s company, including his family’s historic Brennan’s Restaurant a block and a half away on Royal Street, which he reopened with business partner Terry White in November.
While the Napoleon House is joining the fold, Brennan said it will remain a unique property.
“All of my restaurants are different; it’s not a cookie-cutter approach, and that’s what I like about it, and that will be the same here,” he said. “We’ll change some things; they have their systems, we have ours, but these are things that the guests will never notice.”
For his part, Impastato said change has long been a fraught topic at the Napoleon House, though by sticking to what they knew, his family built a business that still stands out.
“When I took over, they didn’t want me to touch anything, and that was 40 years ago. So we never changed; we never followed the trends. We just kept doing what we’re doing,” he said. “People come to New Orleans, and everything is new and gleaming these days, but we never touched anything here.”
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Musician starts foundation to save lives

By Alex Rawls
New Orleans Advocate

For more than a decade, the Neville Brothers and the Radiators closed the main stages on the final Sunday of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell.

But the Radiators closed the Gentilly Stage for the last time in 2011, and the Nevilles were the last act for the last time on the Acura Stage in 2012.
Since then, the Gentilly Stage has seen a variety of closers, while Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue has settled into the symbolic space the Neville Brothers once occupied.
Shorty started a busy festival week Saturday when he headlined the Saenger Theatre for the first time for a show he titled “The Tremé Threauxdown.” He and Orleans Avenue started the show, but it became a jam with Allen Toussaint, Kermit Ruffins, New Breed Brass Band, and Mystikal — all people who were influential on his music, Troy Andrews said last week during a rehearsal for the show.
On Thursday night, he’ll host Shorty Fest at Generations Hall, a fundraiser for The Trombone Shorty Foundation, before playing at the Fair Grounds Sunday.
Andrews had a good year in 2014. His stock rose nationally; he recorded with Foo Fighters and played before them when the rock band performed at Voodoo in City Park last fall.
When Prince played the Essence Music Festival last July, he brought Shorty onstage, then kept him there for the next half-hour to jam. Shorty’s blend of funk, R&B, rock and hip-hop can speak to those very different audiences, but it is also true to the New Orleans tradition.
He credits the broad reach of his music and his ability to fine-tune it for the audience in front of him to his musical upbringing in New Orleans.
“Playing with the Neville Brothers, with Kermit, with Danny Barker, you learn those skills,” Andrews said.
He wants the Trombone Shorty Foundation to be part of that education for the next generation. The organization aspires to “preserve and perpetuate the unique musical culture of New Orleans by passing down its traditions to future generations of musicians,” according to its mission statement.
For Shorty, it’s an extension of the kind of organic education he received from Tuba Fats, his brother James Andrews, and the countless musicians he encountered while growing up in Tremé.
The idea came to him three or four years ago while on tour in Miami.
“I was watching the news and it was talking about murders in New Orleans, and that made an impact to see how we were perceived outside New Orleans,” Andrews said. “I wanted to see if I could save some kids’ lives through music.”
His first response was to buy some instruments and approach Mayor Mitch Landrieu — Andrews calls him “Mitch” — about how to get the instruments to students who needed them. But that was a stop-gap effort. He wanted to do something more lasting, so the foundation was born.
Bill Taylor is executive director. His personal shorthand version of its mission is simple: “To create more Trombone Shortys,” he said.
“It’s to help provide a platform through which kids who have grown up in similar situations to Troy can follow their dreams, musical and otherwise.”
There are a number of organizations that focus on music education with an eye toward helping children beyond their musical dreams, and Taylor wants the foundation to be the bridge between high school band programs and NOCCA, which can only take a finite number of students.
“We want to give these children, who you’d call underserved, the opportunity to take it to the next level,” Taylor said. “That’s a combination of skills in performing as well as business acumen.”
Shorty Fest at Generations Hall is a fundraiser for the foundation. Students in the program will perform in a show that will also include a tribute to Big Chief Monk Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles, with an all-star band that features Bill Kreutzmann of The Grateful Dead, June Yamagishi, Kirk Joseph, Nick Daniels, Raymond Weber, Davell Crawford, and Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars. Corey Henry and The Treme Funktet, New Breed Brass Band, Tank and The Bangas, TYSSON, Sweet Crude, and MainLine will also perform, and Ivan Neville will sit in with Shorty and Orleans Avenue.
“He’s a part of the band when we can have him,” Andrews said. “We learn so much from him. Whenever he’s free, we’ll take him.”
Earlier this month, Andrews also became the subject of a children’s book. He and Taylor co-wrote “Trombone Shorty,” which was illustrated by Caldecott Award-winning artist Bryan Collier.
Neither Andrews nor Taylor were thinking about a book, but when Taylor asked Shorty for stories to help align the foundation’s activities with his real-life journey, he realized they had possibilities.
“It’s an unbelievable story, and some of the things that happened to him early on are remarkable,” Taylor said. While listening, it occurred to him that it was an inspiring tale that would make a good kids’ book.
The book is on sale now, and Andrews will sign copies at Shorty Fest, with part of the proceeds from sales going to the foundation.
“I was reading it and felt like a kid again,” he said. “I looked at the illustrations without reading the words and it made my imagination create my own story, even though it’s my story. I was thinking about some things that really weren’t me.”