HBO's third season of "Treme" opens, as one would expect, with music. A reflective, soaring rendition of "I'll Fly Away" with horns, vocals, and call-and-response exultation, but this is a very different New Orleans, and several musicians are arrested for playing in the street. And as Wendell Pierce's Antoine Batiste states, if the cops are complaining about the music being too loud, they're in the wrong town.
This season's theme hints at evolution, both natural and forced, if "Knock With Me - Rock With Me," is any indication. Compare the character's post-Katrina lives to the first season, and it's quite a difference, however subtle.
For example, Antoine Batiste, the jazz trombonist, has always been the heartbeat of the series. He used to hop in taxis cabs, going from gig to gig, sometimes leaving his trombone as collateral. He was a classic case of what many imagine as the New Orleans jazz musician. Clearly, since he's taken a job as a music director for a school, the respectability and "steady income" of the job is taking its course. His wife reminds him that it is time to grow up, but his curt response is "I'm a musician." Batiste is trying to do the right thing, but evolving is a painful experience for him, and we see it in his eyes and gestures. We see it as he leads the marching band on the field, frustrated by their inability to get the steps right.
Davis McAlary (Steve Zahn), the radio disc jockey and aspiring musician, is still full of ideas. He still wants to change the world. And maybe, given this season's opener, he might find some artistic solace. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Annie (Lucia Micarelli), the violinist, has evolved from street performer to a well-received front woman of a band.
Back in New York, trumpet player Delmond Lambreaux (Rob Brown) has just released his New Orleans Indian-inspired album, which to his consternation, receives (so far) a lukewarm response from critics. Back in New Orleans, Davis McAlary plays a track from the album, which also features Delmond's father, Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters), and we cut to him working on a house trying to convince his co-workers that it's his voice on the radio they're hearing.
LaDonna Batiste-Williams (Khandi Alexander), Antoine Baptiste's ex-wife, is making preparation to go back to her life of running a bar, which carries terrible memories from her attack last season.
In short: characters, characters, characters. If "Treme" shares anything with "The Wire" besides a few actors and creator David Simon, it's the emphasis on character. And in the case of "Treme," the music. The music is as much a character in the series as the players in the drama. Katrina is still felt, but "Treme" has moved beyond that tragic incident and is training its lens upon the machinations of the human condition, those evolving relationships, and the slippery intersection of art and life, leaving little room for imitation.
- Arts & Entertainment
- New Orleans