• 'Treme,' Ep. 20: The Circle, Unbroken

    June 27, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    DJ Davis (Steve Zahn) address a crowd of musicians at Harley's memorial service on Treme. (Image Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

    In season one of Treme, an important death took place in the second-to-last episode. It's a pattern we saw in The Wire — the previous HBO series from Treme's creative team — where writer George Pelecanos was drafted to script often morbid plot twists in penultimate episodes of any given season.

    This season of Treme, Pelecanos wrote episode nine (episode 19 in total) — where Harley is murdered — but the most recent installment, the last before the season finale, had no plot twists on such a dramatic scale. We do see how Harley's seemingly senseless killing fits into the scheme. It reveals more about his previously mysterious character, a composite of so many who have moved to the city to play music. It brings the police force, and Lt. Colson's character, back into the fore. And it will seemingly launch Annie's career as a solo artist, now that she's come into Harley's stash of original compositions.

    This episode is heavy on music scenes, though. Josh Jackson and I present our weekly discussion of 'em.

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  • Dan Tepfer And Friends: Live At 92Y Tribeca

    June 22, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Dan Tepfer. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    The jazz pianist Dan Tepfer isn't yet 30, but he's quickly built a reputation for quality — versatility, too. Two years ago, he put out an album of improvised duets with iconic saxophonist Lee Konitz, who's about 55 years his elder. Last year, Tepfer issued Five Pedals Deep, an elegant and modern trio album. (It's his third trio record, actually.) Soon, he'll also release his readings of and improvisations on J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations, originally written for solo harpsichord.

    In the debut of The Checkout: Live at 92Y Tribeca concert series, Tepfer showed off these three sides of his musical personality. He played selections from his Goldberg Variations solo. He also called upon his friend and peer, tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger, for a series of duos largely of the compositions of Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz. (Konitz was originally scheduled to perform as the guest of honor, but had to bow out for health reasons.) And he played a sparkling set with his trio, with Joe Martin on bass and Ted Poor on drums.

    In association with Josh Jackson of WBGO's The Checkout, who curates and produces this series, NPR Music featured a live HD video webcast of this concert on Wednesday, June 22.

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  • 'Treme,' Ep. 19: Can't Get Out Alive

    June 20, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Ron Carter (left, as himself) looks on as Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters) attempts to show him a thing or two on bass, in Treme. (Image Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

    Lately, our rundowns of musical performances in Treme have ignored some of the non-musical narratives for the sake of brevity. This week is a little lighter on music, and a bit heavier on plot twists — especially at the end of this episode. So we'll address a few of the other storylines this week too. (Spoiler alert for what follows, naturally.)

    In real life, singer-songwriter Steve Earle, who plays the street troubadour/sage counsel Harley, recently released a new album and his debut novel, both titled I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive. Both are named after the posthumous Hank Williams song, and both muse heavily on mortality. As recently as late January, Earle — who also had a role on HBO's The Wire — wasn't anticipating he'd have to apply that titular maxim to his role in the series. When Billboard magazine asked him about touring, he said, "depends on whether I'm in the third season of 'Treme' or whether they kill me or something. But I feel like I've got a lot less chance of getting killed on 'Treme' than I did on 'The Wire.'" The odds did not fall his way.

    Even after a relatively quiet Mardi Gras, violent crime remained a problem in New Orleans in 2007. New Orleans native Josh Jackson joins me again for more insights on this, and other elements of this week's episode.

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