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'Treme,' Ep. 30: Doing One Thing Right

Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce) and his student Robert (Jaron Williams) take a minute with trumpeter Lionel Ferbos, playing himself, at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe.
Paul Schiraldi
Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce) and his student Robert (Jaron Williams) take a minute with trumpeter Lionel Ferbos, playing himself, at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe.

Nearly three seasons in, the character Davis still puzzles many of us who watch the show Treme.

He certainly cares. Whether leading historical tours or launching R&B operas for royalty-abuse awareness, or throwing himself into various protests, he has a winning drive to do right by his hometown. Davis lives to participate in the New Orleans music community, and the earnest charm of his homerism isn't lost on other characters around him.

At the same time, he's a whiny brat. He's uncomfortable with the privilege of his upbringing, yet moans when its largesse can't rescue his schemes or buy him acceptance. He aspires to work with the top tier of musicians in town, but clearly isn't on their level, and doesn't put in the effort to fix that. And as a boyfriend, he's so self-absorbed as to take Annie's presence for granted, even meddling drunkenly in her successes — not to mention cheating on her. It is implied, though never stated, that he's a tiny bit jealous of Annie's success.

We heard his intrusion as Annie's Bayou Cadillac band tracked "This City" in the studio. Then we hear him working out an angry new song called "I Quit" at his piano. For the rest of this episode in music, here's Josh Jackson of WBGO.

Patrick Jarenwattananon: The new school and old school of jazz trumpet are in effect in this episode. We see Delmond play a Freddie Hubbard tribute at Irvin Mayfield's venue — with Irvin Mayfield.

Josh Jackson: We have a very good band onstage saluting Freddie Hubbard at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse, a performance venue inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street. Since this is in a highly trafficked area for tourism (i.e. the French Quarter), the Jazz Playhouse is a good location for generating audiences.

Mayfield is a Grammy-winning trumpeter who likely could have left home to seek his fortune, but instead cultivated his own thing in New Orleans. He and Delmond talk about his abandoned attempt to create a national jazz center, a process that Mayfield explains candidly. Incidentally, they're playing Hubbard's "Open Sesame," the title song from Freddie Hubbard's 1960 debut for Blue Note Records. That's Ronald Markham on piano, David Pulphus on bass, drummer Adonis Rose and trombonist Michael Watson joining the trumpeters.

PJ: And, of course, there's also Lionel Ferbos, a living legend if ever there was one. You've actually written about him before, briefly, for the blog, but remind us: Who is this guy who's been playing since before the Great Depression?

JJ: Lionel Ferbos is now 101, and he still plays music with a beautiful and sunny disposition. That's a remarkable accomplishment. I think he lives for those Sunday-night shows at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe. Ferbos played in a WPA band during the Depression, and he's the last survivor of that band. There aren't many musicians anywhere who can say their careers started in 1926. Antoine Batiste sits in as the band plays "Pretty Baby" — Ferbos was in the ensemble that played music for Louis Malle's film of the same name.

PJ: To close out the episode, we have a more uplifting moment when Antoine's student Jennifer plays for a church band. I notice there's an all-female brass band in front of the choir.

JJ: Those are The Pinettes, a brass band originally named after The Pinstripe Brass Band. The founder, Jeffrey Herbert, was a member of the Pinstripe Brass Band. He was also a band instructor at St. Mary's Academy, an all-girls school. The band has survived now for more than two decades, enough time for a whole new generation to keep the flame lit. Appropriately, they're playing "This Little Light of Mine."

PJ: What else did you recognize in the background this episode?

JJ: David Torkanowsky, a fine musician, producer and sometime DJ presence on WWOZ, contributes some ephemeral notes to this episode. His "Bywater Pocket" plays in a café — the Bywater is a neighborhood in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. Another original, "Dew Drop Pocket," named in honor of a historic venue that hosted the hippest of the hip in its heyday, plays on the radio in a moving vehicle. Also, "Davenport's Tippin'" plays when Janette loses her cool in the kitchen. That song is named after the great New Orleans trumpeter Wallace Davenport, who for a time played with Count Basie. Torkanowsky clearly has a thing for swing, considering he includes terms like "pocket" and "tippin'" in these song titles. No shame in that.

Copyright 2012 WBGO