Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A look at musicians' hard lives

If you'd like to get a pretty realistic glimpse of the life of a jazz musician, turn in to HBO's "Treme," set in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Several of the show's primary characters are musicians, jazz or other, who eke out a living in one of America's most musical cities. If you can't make it here, can you anywhere?
Wendell Pierce stars as trombonist Antoine Batiste, marching in funeral lines by day and gigging anywhere he can at night. In one early episode, a taxi driver holds onto his horn while Antoine checks in on a gig, getting an advance to cover the fare.
Rob Brown's New York-based Delmond Lambreaux walks out of a gig at Small's in one episode to head south.
The show has featured appearances by Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Sammie Williams, Donald Harrison Jr., Galactic, Trombone Shorty Andrews, Deacon John, The Pine Leaf Boys, and the Rebirth and Tremé Brass Bands for additional local flavor.
The show doesn't gloss over some of the hard realities of being a musician -- for example, both Antoine and Delmond are estranged from their families initially (Antoine seems to have a couple ...), which adds a smack of realism.
If you really want to see life on a jazz tour, though, check out the blog saxophonist Froy Aagre wrote for Jazz.com here. There's a bit of culture shock as she discovers the difference between being a professional musician in Europe and one in America, but it's also great to see things through her eyes ... and ears.

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