Again, I love the show. I love music featured on the show—which is primarily the blessed soul and R'n'B that is associated with greats such as Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint.
The way jazz is used in the story is complex and fascinating, and I hardly mean to suggest that David Simon himself or the show's other creators actually "hate" jazz, but there's no question that the show uses jazz as a stand-in for the abandonment of certain core traditions—and therefore for the abandonment of New Orleans itself as a city that needs to be rescued after tragedy. Compared to Antoine Batiste, the warm and wonderful trombone player who starts his own "Soul Apostles" band or to Annie and Harley, street musicians from a larger folk tradition who use music to understand or seek their personal identities, Delmond seems like a spoiled kid in a fancy suit who plays music of technical but not heartfelt appeal.
|Delmond, the modern jazz player on TREME|
Ultimately, Treme ends its second season (another has been ordered by HBO—yes!) by allowing Delmond and his dad to bring together modern jazz and traditional Mardi Gras music in a fascinating hybrid. However, the price of such coming together is that Delmond leaves New York to move back to New Orleans and seems to have conceded that his father was right that this music simply could not be made outside of New Orleans.
It's more complicated than that, sure, but my point is this: modern jazz takes it on the chin as cold and boring, a kind of music that people just don't like or that requires you to "think" too much rather than just enjoy. That is unfair to jazz, which remains a passionate, diverse music that goes well beyond mere technical execution. And it's a slightly lazy sign of the times that reminds me of political appeals that hold up for derision people with good educations in favor of "folksier" types to can "relate to regular people."
Not that I think David Simon is some kind of George Bush fan—hardly. But the rigors of modern jazz can be thrilling too. On that point, just a little, Treme is off key.