WBGO Blog
  • '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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  • First Rites: Jazz Goes Stravinsky

    April 29, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

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    The Bad Plus plays its take on The Rite of Spring at Duke Performances, backed by a multimedia backdrop created by architect Cristina Guadalupe and filmmaker Noah Hutton. (Image Credit: Courtesy of Darryl Pitt)

    In late March, The Bad Plus descended upon Duke University to unveil its take on Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. You can now hear a recording of "On Sacred Ground: Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring" at The Checkout.

    One of my favorite parts of the "Rite" is the "Spring Khorovod," from the first of two sections. A khorovod is a round dance, a simple folkloric form. Think "Ring Around the Rosy," then add a dark Russian vibe. Listen to a bit of Stravinsky conducting the Columbia Symphony Orchestra from 1962:

    I love that insistent rhythmic undertow. It's slightly menacing. Then the full orchestra enters on a tympani crash 19 seconds in, and this totally begins to rock. (I mean, who doesn't like the tympani?) When you hear three members of The Bad Plus perform this section, they really get it too.

    But another piano/bass/drums trio has also recorded that section, and not many people know where to find it.

    E.S.T. (Esbjorn Svensson Trio) included "Spring Khorovod" on its U.S. debut, Somewhere Else Before. It's a hidden track at the end of the disc. These three guys make a wall of sound. Dan Berglund, the bassist, ran his upright into a Line 6 POD that made him sound like Richie Blackmore from Deep Purple.

    In 2003, I made a documentary about the band, before anyone in the U.S. really knew much about them. I'll let them tell you about it. The first voice is the late Esbjorn Svensson. Happy listening.

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  • 'Treme,' Episode 11: Fourteen Months After

    April 25, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

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    In Treme, Annie (Lucia Micarelli), Sonny (Michiel Huisman), John Boutte and Paul Sanchez perform at the Spotted Cat. (Image Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

    Season one of Treme opened with the placard "Three Months After"; the season two premiere tells us we're now "Fourteen Months After," in November 2006. If anything, this opening episode establishes that not much has changed in post-Katrina New Orleans — and what has changed isn't necessarily for the better.

    With the slow return of residents comes the faster return of violent crime; the police department has its hands full with it. The return of residents also means that Chief Lambreaux gets kicked out of the bar he's been squatting in; it doesn't mean that Creighton is coming back to the Bernette family. (The young Sofia seems to be assuming her late father's place as YouTube-enabled narrator, Greek chorus and voice of the city's pent-up anger, while Toni Bernette's fight with the city on behalf of musicians is only getting worse.) Ladonna is still trying to operate the bar despite her partner's protestations; her ex, Antoine Batiste, is dealing with an abandoned property his girlfriend's family owned but has no documentation for. And the emergence of investors like Nelson (Jon Seda) portends the arrival of people looking to capitalize on tragedy — even if Nelson himself doesn't turn out to be one of them.

    Of course, music still lives in the city, and this time around we have some new faces and new sounds. To break down the music of the season two premiere, WBGO's Josh Jackson joins me again over email to discuss the songs and live performances. (We'll be doing this every week, like we did last season.)

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