Free Jazz on Treme

The third season of the HBO series Treme is airing now. I usually DVR it on Sunday and end up watching it sometime later in the week. In case you haven’t seen it, you should know that the music and musicians of New Orleans feature prominently in the show. There was quite a bit of buzz about it in the broader music/jazz community in the first season. I have always enjoyed watching it, if for nothing else, to see my friends on TV, because the producers do a great job of featuring New Orleans musicians, both prominent and obscure.

People often ask me when I will be on the show, and I usually chuckle and respond that the show doesn’t have “my kind of music.” I say this partly tongue in cheek, but it is true that the show focuses on the aspects of New Orleans music that are generally perceived as specifically representative. My regular musical/professional/social circles are largely tangential to those of the featured musicians in the show. I’m cool with that. I still like watching the show, and a track that I played on was the closing credits for one show in the first season, so I have gotten a little taste of the Treme gravy train.

I guess I should add here, that if I made the show, I wouldn’t have any Open Ears/New Orleans improv community scenes. It does’t fit with the story, and it isn’t very mainstream music. BUT, this past week we did get a little second order mention. The character LaDonna said, “They ain’t gonna shut me down like they did King Bolden’s!” (or something to that effect).

That line acknowledges the genesis of the Open Ears Music Series. King Bolden’s was a club on Rampart St. They only did jazz on Tuesdays (they had DJs and other music on other nights), and it was usually left of center jazz. Mario, the owner, seemed to like me and my band, because he called once a month and asked what night I wanted to play. When that club got shut down, my regular easy gig went away, and I needed a new place to play. That was the catalyst that led to the founding of the Open Ears Music Series, which is now 5 years old and has presented nearly every great New Orleans improviser, and many of the world’s great improvisers. So, you won’t see or hear any of the New Orleans improvised music community on Treme, but there was an inside reference to one of the clubs that features prominently in our history.

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