I recently read an excellent piece by Dan Baum about a New Orleans high school band director in The Oxford American’s “Music Issue.” It richly underscored the vital role school bands play in the culture of that city and showed that when young people pick up instruments, they often pick up much-needed life skills and self-respect. So I was intrigued that HBO’s press release for Season Two of Treme (which begins April 24) noted that Antoine Batiste (the memorable trombonist played by Wendell Pierce) finds himself drawn to the New Orleans school system, “the very place where the city’s musical culture begins."
David Simon doesn’t miss a beat, does he?
I’d also been listening to the CD of music from Treme’s first season, and I was curious what acts we’ll hear in Season Two. Here’s a partial list provided by Simon, who noted that there will be many others…
The Hot 8 Brass Band
And here’s that HBO press release…
It’s more than a year since Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. The national spotlight on the Crescent City has dimmed, and residents are finding it harder than ever to rebuild their lives. Some have become expatriates in distant cities. The insurance checks that never arrived for homeowners were followed by the bureaucratic nightmare that was the Road Home program, and a land-grab is underway as developers and disaster capitalists press their advantage. Crime and drug use are up, and corruption and graft are endemic, with civic institutions unable to counter any of it.
And yet the culture of New Orleans somehow endures.
While the spirit is alive in New Orleans, its residents are still dealing with loss – of homes, jobs and loved ones. In the wake of her brother’s death, Ladonna (Khandi Alexander) helps her mother move out of her old home and upriver to Baton Rouge, while worrying about the increasingly dangerous conditions in the neighborhood. Toni Bernette (Melissa Leo, recent Oscar-winner for The Fighter) helps her daughter, Sofia (India Ennenga), cope with Creighton’s death, while still assisting others in finding answers for their own losses. And Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters) is forced out of his temporary residence and must make ends meet with a meager insurance check.
In addition, New Orleans civil servants now have to contend with the shocking rise of crime, coupled with the mysterious loss of funds essential to the restoration of the city. Lieutenant Terry Colson (David Morse) is caught in the crossfire, dealing with the current crime wave and still trying to sort out the truth in the wreckage of the past.
TREME’s musicians are trying to survive as well, with mixed results. Antoine Batiste (Wendell Pierce) maintains the lifestyle of a musician, despite persistent challenges from his girlfriend Desiree and a lack of funds, and entertains the idea of leading his own band. Yet as the New Orleans school system comes back to life, he also finds himself drawn to the very place where the city’s musical culture begins.
Meanwhile, Annie Tee’s (Lucia Micarelli) profile is on the rise, while she continues her relationship with DJ Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn), who now has fresh musical ambitions of his own. On the other hand, Annie’s ex-boyfriend Sonny (Michiel Huisman) – though presented with a genuine opportunity – must first contend with his own demons. Meanwhile, renowned trumpeter Delmond Lambreaux (Rob Brown) has been joined in New York by chef Janette Desautel (Kim Dickens), both pursuing their careers there, but feeling the tug of their native culture.
“We are following the actual timeline of post-Katrina New Orleans as a means of understanding what happened – and what didn’t happen – when an American city suffered a near-death experience,” says David Simon. “In doing so, we’re trying to address ourselves to what the American experiment has become and what possibilities remain for us.
“We are an urban people now. How we live together – and of what we are capable or incapable of achieving as an urban people is going to define our future,” he adds. “New Orleans and its recent history speaks to that.”
David Morse (The Hurt Locker; HBO’s John Adams) and India Ennenga, both featured in the first season of TREME, become series regulars, along with new cast member Jon Seda (the upcoming Larry Crowne; HBO’s The Pacific), playing Nelson Hildago, who arrives fresh from Dallas to avail himself of the unique opportunities that New Orleans could offer some in the wake of Katrina.