“Treme” Third Season Finale Loaded With Tons O’ Great Players

Has there EVER been a television drama that has given as much respect to musicians as HBO’s “Treme,” in terms of screen time, playing time, and genuine appreciation for musical art, not to mention insights into the day-to-day reality of working musicians?

I think not.

Sunday’s third-season finale, a prelude to the truncated Season “3.5,” wrapped up — or pointed in the direction of wrapping up — a ton of story strands.

In one, fiddle player and singer Annie (Lucia Micareli) sees her band’s debut CD released and enjoys a rather too speedy rocket ride to a national stage, with her manager planning a launch party in New York City. The script even works in a reference to New Orleans’ long-running music monthly: “This ain’t about Offbeat, darling,” he says. “It’s about Rolling Stone and the New York Times.”

At the Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street, site of a benefit concert, and elsewhere, Tons of great NOLA players play and/or get speaking lines, including trumpeters Kermit Ruffins, Irvin Mayfield, and Shamarr Allen; funk/R&B bass master George Porter Jr. (the Meters), keyboardist Ivan Neville, drummer Johnny Vidacovich, guitarist Little Freddie King and, in an intimate duo, singer John Boutte and pianist Tom McDermott.

At one point. four-trombone band Bonerama and series mainstay Antoine Batiste  (Wendell Pierce), a trombonist, are joined by TroyTrombone Shorty” Andrews and Big Sam. “Trombones rule the world,” Antoine says. Indeed. For extra measure, singer-songwriter Jill Sobule (Not from NOLA) joins the low-brass confab for “When My Ship Comes In.”

For fans of New Orleans music & culture “Treme,” while imperfect, is the ship that finally came in, an antidote to other TV series set in the Crescent City. I’ll be sad to see its voyage come to an end.

Eric Lindell, “West County Drifter” (CD review)

(recently reviewed for Relix; direct link)

Eric Lindell, West County Drifter (M.C. Records)

A shaggy, rambling lovability defines Eric Lindell, a California-to-Louisiana singer and guitarist initially promoted as a blues artist. At times, particularly on the first of these two discs (both originally self-released as separate albums)—with regular trio mates Myles Weeks on upright bass and Will McMains on drums—Lindell’s throaty, soulful vocals and laidback acoustic grooves recall the likes of G. Love & Special Sauce and JJ Grey.

The shuffling title track—a road-trip song featuring Nick Ellman’s clarinet—and the horn-packed “Try to Understand”—bolstered by Ivan Neville’s organ—are just two of the many keepers.

Other highlights include the tangy opener “Sentimental Lover,” retro-rootsy “Dog Eat Dog” and covers of Curtis Mayfield’s punchy, piano-spiked “Find Another Girl” and the slow-burning “It’s So Hard to Believe.”

Bear Creek: The Afterglow

I’m still feeling the extra-sensory afterglow of the great music – and serene outdoors setting – I experienced at the Bear Creek Music & Art Festival, last month at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park near Live Oak.

One of the stars of the fest was a guy who wasn’t even officially on the bill. I’m talking about north Florida homeboy Derek Trucks. I’ve been watching and listening to the slide-guitar wizard since he was all of 11 years old or so, and making semi-regular treks from Jacksonville (with his dad/manager chaperoning) to play Skipper’s Smokehouse. Back then, I interviewed Derek several times for the Tampa Tribune, and I wrote a short feature on the six-string wunderkind for Guitar World magazine.

Was that the first story on Derek in a national mag? Not sure. But I do remember being very annoyed at how heavily the piece was edited. GW turned my story, on Derek and his music, into an extremely puffy piece about how “cute” it was to see such a little fellow carrying around that big guitar. Note to Derek: Don’t blame me for that.

At any rate … Word was that Derek was going to make a guest appearance or two, and I saw him pull up to one of the stages late Saturday afternoon. As it turned out, he applied those trademark sweet-and-stinging slide lines to several pieces during three sets – by jazzy soul/R&B outfit Lettuce, New Orleans keyboardist Ivan Neville and his Dumpstaphunk outfit, and high-energy organ trio Soulive. My pix of Derek, on this post, are from his performance with Lettuce. So is the above YouTube video.

The guy is a natural, of course. Not that we need reminders after all the great work he’s done leading his own band, and playing with the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, and Susan Tedeschi – Derek’s wife and an impressive blues guitarist and singer in her own right (more about her in a forthcoming post).

The Robert Walter Trio, led by the former Greyboy Allstars B3 organist/keyboardist, played one of my other favorite sets at Bear Creek. Walter, with great New Orleans bassist James Singleton (Astral Project) and new NOLA drummer Simon Lott, dug deep into various strains of jazz, funk, and, of course, Crescent City rhythms (check out my pix of Walter and Singleton).

The tunes were drawn, in part, from Walter’s new Cure All, with Singleton and Johnny Vidacovich, the other half of Astral Project’s rhythm section. I caught the group playing an evening set at Preservation Hall during Jazz Fest week this year (saxophonist Donald Harrison sat in), and I recently covered the CD for Las Vegas City Life. Click here to read the review.

I spoke with Singleton after the set, and in addition to gifting me with his gorgeous sounding string-quartet CD, Gold Bug Crawl, he told me that he is in the process of moving back to New Orleans, after a long post-Katrina residency in Los Angeles. It will be great to have such a vital part of the NOLA music scene back in the mix there.

Sunday morning, my friend Lennie and I ran into Walter near one of the concession stands, and he told us how big a fan he is of Derek – the musician, and the man. I’m guessing that it’s something of a mutual-admiration society.

As mentioned in an earlier post, my full review of Bear Creek will be published in the coming months in Relix magazine.

Meanwhile, check out these other reviews of the fest:

Jambase

Jambands.com