When jazz is depicted in mainstream culture, it's usually done with a kind of tone-deafness that makes fans of "the music" grimace. Jazz is "smooth" and "cool" and often represented by a maudlin saxophone performance that sounds more like the intro to George Michael's "Never Gonna Dance Again" than, say, the opening of Coltrane's "Impressions."
That's part of what makes David Simon's New Orleans-set Treme so rare—it's a mainstream show that's deeply sensitive to the lives of working musicians and the subtleties of their art. Treme began its second season on Sunday night, and, like they did last year, NPR jazz blogger-in-chief Patrick Jarenwattananon and WBGO host (and native New Orleanian) Josh Jackson are providing what is likely the most informative TV recap on the interwebs. Their first post of Season 2 opens like this:
PJ: Okay. First, the live music. Why is Batiste visiting his teacher's grave and playing for him? Does that have to do with the fact that it's All Saints Day?The rest of their conversation follows a similar structure, with Patrick playing a savvier Glaucon and Josh as Bayou Socrates. I'm, admittedly, well behind in my Treme viewing (meaning I have seen Episode 1 and have good intentions to catch up at some point), but I still find Patrick and Josh's Treme analyses to be essential—if somewhat intimidating—reading. (Do you have to be able to pick Lawrence Fields out of a lineup to write about jazz?)
JJ: November 1 is a Holy Day of Obligation still celebrated widely in South Louisiana. That means good Catholics don't bother with the affairs of anyone but God. They attend Mass and visit the tombs of their departed loved ones. It's a nice way to keep life on your mind — laying flowers, lighting votive candles, painting graves ... or, in this case, playing "Buddy Bolden's Blues" for your trombone teacher.
If you're hungry for more NOLA esoterica, check out the full recap archives.