Sunday, July 3, 2011

"treh-MAY" - Season Two far!

All photos courtesy of &

All Saints Day...November 1, 2006...14 months later...Pay respects to the dead!

Season Two opens with a young boy and his trumpet. What initially sounds like scales turns out to be "When the Saints Go Marching In" and it prompts his mother to yell "take it down the street for a while, you're working my last nerve!"

Brocato's reopened, other businesses are slow! Frenchmen Street is still musicians row! Crime is WAY up, more murders unaccounted for. Folks are still protesting and marching for a better New Orleans...and letting it all hang out on Mardi Gras Day!

New York, New York...a helluva town!

Janette works as a line cook for an arrogant, hot-tempered chef and she now shares an apartment with two other chefs in Carroll Gardens/Gowanus, Brooklyn. And from the looks of things, her troubles from NOLA have followed her all the way to The Big Apple. Jacques, her former sous chef, is brought in for a traffic stop because he didn't have his papers. She's robbed on Thanksgiving Day by a one night stand. And back in NOLA, while Davis picks up Janette's mail, he discovers that her home is in the process of being robbed! Celebrated food writer Alan Richman writes a scathing review about The Big Easy's food and culture, doubting that it was ever any good to begin with! Just as Janette decides to quit her oppressive job, Richman just happens to be dining at her restaurant that night and she decides to throw a sazerac in his face--BRILLIANT! Janette, now a pop culture legend on the Internet, lands a job at La Bernardin, but she ultimately leaves and finds her true creative passion at David Chang's experimental restaurant, which caters to other chefs!

Delmond Lambreaux plays alongside The Christian Scott Quintet in NYC. After Delmond's performance, some of NYs "elitists" rips both Preservation Hall and Dixieland jazz (calling it "minstrel"). "Nola's in everything we play," Delmond says along with a few brilliant expletives! Now he's back home in NOLA for Thanksgiving and he sees his father, Albert, living and working out of a van. Moe, the bar owner, soon returns throwing Albert completely off. Albert leaves the bar and continues to work on his house and waits for government assistance from programs like Road Home and insurance money, a "whopping" $495, to help fix his home. Albert's is one of 90,000 applications for the Road Home grant assistance program and ultimately, his application is denied because the deed was in his wife's name, who died in 2003 (long BEFORE Hurricane Katrina!) As he does odd jobs around NOLA for extra cash, such as putting the finishing plaster touches on other homes, it's more than obvious that Albert "Big Chief" Lambreaux feels nothing like a "chief" given his circumstances. He's surrounded by family and friends on Thanksgiving Day and yet he's completely miserable. Delmond cannot bear to see his father so unhappy.

Delmond returns to New York to perform with his band and discovers a whole new world of cyberspace (Facebook, Myspace, iTunes) that hasn't been tapped into to promote his new jazz album. After a heated argument between Delmond and his manager, as he insists that jazz will not sell regardless of promotion, Delmond immediately fires him. "300 years of music, from Bach to Stravinsky is standard repertoire, but Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver and Louis are obsolete," Delmond says to his girlfriend while listening to "Tom Cat Blues." While she insists that this music is dated, Delmond argues that it was popular in its day and wants to explore what made it so popular. During Mardi Gras, when Delmond hears Quincy Jones' Killer Joe playing along with chants of "Shallow Water Oh Mama" from the Mardi Gras Indians, that's what inspires him to ultimately record a modern jazz record combined with the Afro-Native American culture of New Orleans. But in order do make this happen, he needs the help of his father, Albert "Big Chief" Lambreaux. (Check out Donald Harrison's classic hybrid album Indian Blues!)

A local NOLA filmmaker wants to do a film about Albert and the Mardi Gras Indians, but he's stubborn to the core and immediately refuses. While Albert stays in Houston with his daughter Davina, he soon heads to NYC to help Delmond finish his suit for Mardi Gras. But we soon learn that Delmond was actually sewing for Albert's suit, in hopes that he would walk the parade with his fellow Guardians of the Flame. Albert not only walks proudly in his beautiful white feathers, but he soon finds, let's say some "spiritual" inspiration with the Delmond's hotel room: "I told you I was the prettiest!"

Her footage not only captures the making of this seminal record with legends like Donald Harrison, Jr., Dr. John, Alfred "Uganda" Roberts and Ron Carter, who gets a few "pointers" from "Big Chief" Albert, but she takes both Delmond and Albert to the Brooklyn Museum to look at the African head pieces on display, capturing the lineage of the Afro-Native American culture of New Orleans.

Sofia misses her father, Tulane professor Creighton Burnette, who in Season One committed suicide by jumping off of a gulf coast ferry. Almost immediately, Sofia continued her dad's legacy with shocking socio-political commentary on YouTube. But in addition, this barely 16 year-old is staying out all night at bars and drinking with older men. Sofia and Toni were once inseparable and now they're completely at odds with one another. Her one "healthy" outlet is YouTube, as she gives "voice to her father" through shock value. When one of her high school teachers, Mr. Wayman, committed suicide, a fellow teacher approaches Sofia and to console her. She never knew the full truth on how her father died, so that prompted her to retrace his steps that day on the ferry and learn the horrible truth on what really happened to him. And it only makes matters for her much worse. Davis finds her drunk with some older guy at a bar on Mardi Gras night and he thankfully takes her back to his home and calls a beyond worried Toni. And soon after, she gets arrested for carrying drugs and drinking in a stolen car with older guys. Sofia and Toni finally talk about Creighton's suicide: "Why didn't I see it coming?" Toni yells and cries in the street. They soon hug, but it's going to take a long time for Toni and Sofia to ever feel like a family again.

Davis is still working at WKOZ! Inspired by playing bounce music nonstop! Still hilarious, he does a rush clean of his messy apartment for fiddler Annie, his new girlfriend, as she returns from tour. Annie's a much stronger, in demand player this season as she performs with everyone from Shawn Colvin to John Boutte. At the "Trial by Water" exhibit where Annie plays, she discovers that there's a photo of how her junky ex Sonny saved a baby on the roof during Katrina. Annie struggles to write her first song and when she does, her friend Harley points out that it sounds a lot like a Bob Dylan song. But Annie soon finds inspiration listening to other musicians create and perform their songs and she eventually writes a beautiful song and finds the courage to share it in front of folks on Frenchmen Street. While they were walking home soon after their performance, Harley was robbed and shot to death in front of Annie.

Aunt Mimi joins Davis at a local NOLA bounce show with none other than Big Freedia ! And Aunt Mimi feels right at home! Davis begs his Aunt Mimi to front him the $5,000 so he can start his own record label. Aunt Mimi even lures in rapper/producer Mannie Fresh to contribute a track on Davis's music sampler. But when his new frontman, Lil Calliope (Ace B.) steals the spotlight from Davis, has Davis lost his shot at becoming the infamous musician that he was destined to be?

Ladonna, who still works at her bar, considers live music to liven things up for business has been slow. While closing up the bar one late night, two teens badly attack and rape her. "Does she carry any type of insurance?" is the first thing that the nurse asks as she's carried into the ER. Her husband is furious, but Ladonna chooses to not tell him about her being raped. To see her take STD and pregnancy prevention drugs is heartbreaking. She's now become paranoid and drinks excessively. Ladonna soon meets with the detective again to ID the man who raped and assaulted her--the man that they ultimately arrested. But the DA soon blurts out Ladonna's secret of being raped in front of her husband. He wants her to sell the bar and although she doesn't want to, Ladonna, understandably, cannot move past what happened to her.

Antoine and Desiree want a house: "Get a job job" Desiree says to Antoine. Antoine has regular gigs now, but one performance inspires him to start his own band: Antoine Baptiste and his Soul Apostles. Johnny Taylor, Solomon Burke, old school! "Music that don't get played no more...but people wished that they did b/c you can shake yo ass to it!"

Desiree gets Antoine an interview at her school for the Assistant Bandleader position. When Antoine arrives at the school of "unruly Bebe's Kids," he hops right back in the cab and takes off! But Desiree reschedules his appointment and he gets the job. Most of the kids don't even have instruments. To see the students jump at the sound of thunder, thinking that another Katrina lurks around the corner, is especially humbling. Antoine teaches the children about the history of jazz and how it was born in New Orleans by listening to innovators like Louis Armstrong. They watch the musicians at Mardi Gras to learn. As Antoine tells Desiree that he wishes his sons played instruments, he begins to pour his energy into the classroom, particularly into the young boy with the trumpet who opened the new season.

By day, Antoine's an assistant bandleader, but by night, he's a "working" musician!!As he rehearses with his newly formed band, Antoine's honesty and humor is so effortless that you forget he's playing a character! But reality settles in as one of his musicians is accidentally murdered. The emotional eulogy from his sister, the second line that sends him "home," and all of the musicians raising their instruments in the air as they put the casket in the carriage transcends the show and feels like an actual funeral service, making it almost difficult to watch.

Developer Nelson Hidalgo arrives from Dallas, TX. He sees "gold" in New Orleans and his opportunistic greed shines through as he "wants to be made a king." He gets haulers to help do his dirty labor! He even has city officials in his back pocket (literally) who help him further in his goals to buy up New Orleans. As he worms in his way into the town, he ultimately convinces folks to sell their homes. Regardless if they sell or not, the acquisition already seems to be a done deal.

Some of this season's featured musicians: John Boutte, Hot 8 Brass Band, Big Freedia, Shawn Colvin, John Hiatt, Manny Fresh, Rebirth Brass Band, Juvenile, Ron Carter, Christian Scott, Dr. John, Donald Harrison, Jr., Alfred "Uganda" Roberts, and many more!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Nicholas Payton Big Band @ Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola

[Photo courtesy of]

The Nicholas Payton Big Band
Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola
Jazz at Lincoln Center
March 6th, 2011

By Shannon J. Effinger

It’s a Sunday night here at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, a wonderful performance space with breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline, at Jazz at Lincoln Center. As you walk into the club, you’re immediately drawn to the wonderful snapshots of jazz history, all of which feature the late, great trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Since I was a child, I’ve seen countless images of Gillespie—including a memorable guest appearance as a music teacher on The Cosby Show—but nothing like these photos. All of the pictures seem personal, as though we’re not only getting a glimpse of his fascinating life and journeys throughout the world, but also a look at some of the musicians he’s performed with over the years (Max Roach, James Moody, Thelonious Monk). It’s not only inviting for those who come from all over to hear the music, but for future jazz leaders, it’s an omen, a reminder that they can one day join those legends on the wall. And from the sounds of it, trumpeter Nicholas Payton is well on his way.

It’s the final night of this week-long engagement and it’s the perfect night to catch The Nicholas Payton Big Band. Not only because there’s a torrential rainstorm outside that doesn’t want to end, but I missed an opportunity to hear him perform at the Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro in New Orleans last summer, Payton’s hometown, and I’m finally going to hear exactly what I missed.

He opens with a piece called “Once in a Blue Moon,” a tribute to the late jazz pianist Kenny Kirkland. This one’s well suited for Payton and his big band. Not only does it make you aware of his prowess as a bandleader, keeping each section organically in sync with a slight hand or arm gesture, but the intensity of Payton’s trumpet alongside his booming horn section is quite reminiscent of the collaborations between Gil Evans and Miles Davis.

“In the Zone” established a contemplative mood for the evening. There’s some bounce to it, especially in its upswings, but Payton’s vocals, which at first was quite unexpected, brings everything down to a mellow space that in case you forgot you were at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola listening to jazz, this piece was a perfect reminder. The musicians were very much in sync and it was very easy to literally get lost inside of the trills and melodic flourishes of Payton’s trumpet. It was a nice surprise to see Payton actually enjoy his fellow musicians as he would every now and then do a little shoulder bounce.

Payton’s rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “Tiger Rag” gave me a taste of what I missed in New Orleans last summer. His punctuated high notes and playful flourishes on trumpet not only injected the spirit of New Orleans into everyone present that night, but it also shows that there’s a strong connection to his roots.

Being only 37, Payton is hardly a traditional musician. Like his native New Orleans, Payton’s sound is an amalgam of many different influences—jazz, ragtime, swing, hip-hop and even R&B. It’s also nice to see that Payton includes more than his fair share of women in his big band, notably saxophonist and clarinetist Anat Cohen. It is rare these days to hear a jazz musician like Nicholas Payton who embraces different sounds and goes against the grain.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I'm on!!

Be sure to check out my blog this Sunday evening for the long-awaited premiere of the new season of TREME!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

HBO Series Treme ("treh-MAY")...Season 2 begins on April 24th

Last Thursday, I was one of the lucky people who attended HBO's Treme Party (sponsored by Giant Step) at The Ghost Room during the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX.

The sun was shining, the brass band sounds fill every square inch of the space and the delicious food was thoughtfully prepared by Chef Curtis Clarke, owner of the Evangeline Cafe. I especially enjoyed the Crawfish Evangeline pasta!

I was too busy dancing and eating, but here's just a few of the photos I managed to snag from that day (all photos shown below are courtesy of Shannon J. Effinger):

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Dancing Man 504

Dancing Man 504

The legendary pianist Henry Butler

I have a special surprise coming soon before the start of the new on the lookout in just a few short weeks!!

If you were one of the unfortunate people to miss the first season of the HBO Series Treme, just take a look at my blogsite, SJE on all things jazz for full Season One recap!

You'll also find the Season Two recap of Treme right here on my blogsite, SJE on all things jazz beginning April 24th!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

R.I.P. Abbey Lincoln (August 6, 1930 - August 14, 2010)

A special blog post this week for the late, great Abbey Lincoln!!

Here's just some of her classic albums that each of you should own:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"treh-MAY" - Episode #10: "I'll Fly Away"

(All photos/general information can be found @ or Wikipedia.)

Two detectives are meeting with Toni (Melissa Leo) at her home to discuss the disappearance of her husband Creighton (John Goodman). A man fitting Creighton's description was described by a fellow ferry' passenger who gave him a cigarette. But since Creighton's jeep was not on the ferry--and he quit smoking years prior--it probably wasn't him, Toni thought out loud. They promised to return if they heard any news.

Unfortunately, they did indeed return to house with news that Creighton's body was found floating in the Mississippi River. As the two detectives left, we immediately hear a loud "NO" and crying from an emotionally devastated daughter Sofia.

Lt. Colson walks with Toni over to Creighton's empty car, still parked where he'd left it. He tells Toni to do a search of the vehicle and for Sofia's sake, grab anything that might suggest that his death was anything but accidental. As an emotional Toni rummages through Creighton's car, she opens the glove box and finds Creighton's wallet. In that wallet, she pulls out a note:

"I Love You, Cray."

Overcome with grief, Toni drives off soon after.

Toni's colleague at the law firm takes on many of her cases while she makes arrangements for Creighton's funeral. Although his will requests a second line parade, Toni instead opts for cremation and a small ceremony instead. When her colleague insists that Sofia would love to see a second line parade, Toni's anger over Creighton's suicide comes out: "Can't dance for them when they quit," she responds.

Davis (Steve Zahn) and Janette (Kim Dickens), as most of New Orleans, are shocked over news of Creighton's death in the morning paper. "This town," Janette says after having already made up her mind to leave for New York City since her restaurant has closed. Davis is on a mission to convince Janette not to leave New Orleans. His mission began earlier that morning when he arrived at Janette's house with a plate of beignets and the one and only John Boutté who serenades her with the Sam Cooke classic, "Bring It On Home To Me". They make many stops around the city, take a nap by the Mississippi River, catch the Soul Rebels Brass Brand and John Mooney perform "Drink A Little Poison (4 U Die)" at the Maple Leaf Bar, and end the night together at The Columns Hotel.

Meanwhile, Toni puts her energy back into her case load, going over every detail with her colleague as she will take over during Toni's time of bereavement. One of the essential cases for her has been the search for Daymo's body. She insists that her colleague convince LaDonna (Khandi Alexander) to perform a new autopsy on Daymo in light of possible evidence that suggests that he was probably murdered. LaDonna is firm in her refusal of a private autopsy--she says that regardless of what comes from it, it's still a horrible situation.

Trombone Shorty asks Antoine to meet him at a sushi restaurant because he has a conflict of gigs. He offers Antoine a gig to play with the great Allen Toussaint--the pay is $1,000 per man.

Rehearsal for Antoine and the other band members seems to go well and then shortly after, he asks to sit in on a poker game using the pay from his gig as an "IOU." When they warn him about going up against the great Irma Thomas, he laughs at that notion and continues to stay in the game. At the end of the gig, when the band members are getting their pay in cash, Antoine has to surrender most of his earnings to the rest of the band--the bulk of it going to Irma Thomas!! When he returns home to Desiree with what is left of his earnings, she complained and he made up a lie (the right thing to do) about his "paltry" pay for the gig.

Davis decides to put out a full-length CD since his four song epistle has done so well. He asks his mother to loan him the money. She instead decides to match what he's already earned and tells him to get a job in order to come up with the rest. This leaves Davis now choice but to beg his old boss at WWOZ for his deejay gig promising to adhere to the rules set by the station. Looks like DJ Davis McClary is back!

During his set, Davis puts on "My Indian Red," by Danny Barker & the Baby Dodds Trio in honor of St. Joseph's Day and he dedicates it to all of the Mardi Gras Indians out there who are sewing their costumes and are getting ready to look "pretty" for the big day.

That's exactly the scene at Poke's Tavern as Albert (Clarke Peters), his son Delmond (Rob Brown), his daughter Davina, and Albert's gang continue to work hard on the finishing touches of their costumes for St. Joseph's Day.

After fighting with Sonny over wanting to play with other people, Annie returns to gather more of things after he threw her out earlier. He said that he made a mistake and wants Annie to come back home, but when she did, she discovered that Sonny already had company--a girl that he met at Mardi Gras was lying naked in their bed. "Nice tattoos," Annie says to the girl and then storms out the house--hopefully for the last time! When Davis returns to his apartment, he finds Annie waiting outside, seeking a place to stay. "What did I do right?" he asks with joy. Looks like Davis has a new roommate.

Toni, Jacques (Janette's former sous chef), Antoine and a host of others pay their final respects to Daymo at the now restored family crypt. The emotions cause LaDonna to recall the morning of Hurricane Katrina and how she and her family continuously tried to contact Daymo.

Daymo, who worked at Janette's restaurant, Desautel's, gets a call from Jacques to remove the meat from the freezer locker. As he jumps in his car and rushes over to the restaurant, he gets pulled over by the police. He pleads with the officer to release him, but because of the warrant, the officer insists that he has to take him him--hurricane or no hurricane.

We ultimately see how the others reacted prior to the devastation of the storm: Desiree yelling at Antoine to hurry up as he tries to take classic vinyls with him before leaving; Creighton, Toni and Sofia staying in a hotel watching the news; Albert and Davina boarding up their home while Davina talks to Delmond who's watching The Weather Channel in New York City urging them to leave.

As Daymo's funeral comes to an end, you immediately hear the sounds of the Treme Brass Band as they sing and play "I'll Fly Away" for his second line parade. To see LaDonna strutting and dancing to honor her brother's memory was beyond moving.

"treh-MAY" - Episode #9: "Wish Someone Would Care"

(All photos/general information can be found @ or Wikipedia.)

Creighton (John Goodman) gives his class an assignment to read Kate Chopin's The Awakening, a novel that is perhaps one of the earliest examples of literary feminism. But Creighton as a professor urges his students to dig deeper than that, for as he explains, it's more about the search for "truth" and "peace." When his freshmen students asked about how they'll be graded for the course, based on his response, Creighton's mind has gone to an entirely different place: "Everyone of us will be tested and everyone one of us will be found lacking."

His mind has been in a different place for a long while. With the pressure of finishing his novel on the 1927 Flood looming and him not feeling able to turn out quality pages for his editor, he like so many people (especially New Orleaneans) are distracted by post-Katrina and the city's slow recovery. Instead, he continues to posts his rage (and ultimately, the insurmountable rage of a city) on YouTube. Instead of this serving as a cathartic release, it only drags Creighton deeper into a depression where he seeks solace in drinking.

The next morning, Creighton is wide awake and will head off to teach his freshmen lecture. His daughter Sofia begs him to take her to school, but he tells her that she must listen to her mother, Toni (Melissa Leo), and not ditch her first period class. Just as Toni and Sofia get ready to leave, Creighton gives Toni a very passionate kiss. And then he tells Sofia how beautiful she looks today. And as they both jump in the car, Creighton tells his wife to "kick a little ass."

Creighton continues with his lecture on Kate Chopin's The Awakening. Some students express to him how they find it depressing. He explains that not only there isn't "an end," but how it is more of her "embracing spiritual freedom." As Creighton utters these words, he looks at his students and sees nothing but a sea of blank and confused faces. This prompts him to dismiss class a bit early, telling them to go out and enjoy the day. And soon enough, he takes his own advice.

First, he grabs a hearty sampling with includes a shrimp po'boy (YUM!) at Liuzza's, waits on line for hot beignets at Cafe Du Monde on Decatur Street, and wanders over to Frenchmen Street and catches Annie (Lucia Micarelli) performing (with a new piano man) "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" and drops a $20 into Annie's violin case and says to her, "Always for pleasure."

Creighton then boards the Canal Street Ferry (also known as the Algiers Ferry) and bums a cigarette from another passenger. He walks over to the front of the boat, stares out and then flicks his cigarette into the Mississippi River. The other passenger watches him for a while and when he turns around, he (along with the rest of us) notices that Creighton is no where to be found. Hours go by and Creighton's empty jeep is the last car in the parking lot.