WBGO Blog
  • 'Treme,' Ep. 13: All Politics Is Local

    May 9, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

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    Steve Earle as Harley performs with Jamie Bernstein in episode 13 (season two, episode three) of Treme. (Image Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

    Spoiler alert: There are three break-ins during the latest episode of Treme. There's the looting that happened at Janette's old place, the bust of Sonny's apartment and, of course, the sexual assault on LaDonna. (What a performance from Khandi Alexander!)

    It seems like the writers behind the show are attempting to weave the surge of (violent) crime in late-2006 New Orleans into the fabric of the show's narrative. But this episode in particular seems to concentrate on impact of such things on the financially unstable people, especially freelancers and small business owners, who work in service industries — a huge part of the New Orleans economy. Janette won't get anywhere fast with her crazy chef boss. LaDonna can't run her bar. Sonny can't work without an instrument; the life of the musician is further highlighted when Antoine won't even interview for a steady teaching job. And the Nelson Hidalgo storyline highlights how the rich get richer, while subcontractors like Riley (and Chief Lambreaux, for that matter) see relatively little trickle down.

    With me once again to make the commentary much more palatable is Josh Jackson of WBGO. Here's our weekly e-mail discussion of the music of this episode.

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  • Instruments Of Change: Music Of The Freedom Riders, 50 Years Later

    May 4, 2011. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sees off a group of Freedom Riders as they board a bus for Jackson, Miss., on May 24, 1961. (Image Credit: Paul Schutzer/Life)

    Exactly 50 years ago today, 13 "Freedom Riders" — seven black and six white — rode public buses into the Deep South. Their mission: to test a brand-new federal law prohibiting segregation in public bus terminals.

    When the riders reached Alabama, the center for racial havoc and injustice during the modern civil rights era, all hell broke loose. One bus was destroyed by a mob and bomb, almost killing the passengers. The riders in the second bus were beaten by another mob in Birmingham.

    Drummer Art Blakey and many other jazz musicians were acutely aware of what was happening, and their dream of social justice resulted in one of the most creative periods in jazz history. Here, we honor a few of the musicians who wielded their instruments in the pursuit of social harmony and change.

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  • 'Treme,' Ep. 12: It's Gonh Be Funky

    May 2, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

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    DJ Davis (Steve Zahn) and his WWOZ boss (Darien Sills-Evans) argue, while DJ Jeffy Jeff (Spud McConnell) hosts programming. (Image Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

    In November 2006, new problems were emerging in the rebuilding of New Orleans. To compound the lingering issues with police work immediately after Hurricane Katrina, crime is up again. Government agencies are spending freely with contractors via patronage networks, while working-class laborers are seeing relatively little of that money. There are proposals afoot to rezone the city and wipe out neighborhoods, and new politicians who are debating those ideas. Public schools are underfunded, and parents are taking notice. And, when it can afford it the least, a leading food authority lines up a broadside against the entire city's cuisine — and its culture at large.

    Treme's trick is that these issues are all reflected in intersecting human dramas. In episode two of season two, these plotlines begin to take shape. With me again to help break it all down is New Orleans native Josh Jackson of WBGO. We start, as we always do, with a discussion of the episode's live music performances.

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