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Buona Canzone

February 8, 2011

It starts off with a song that would not have been out of place at Don Corneolo’s daughter’s wedding, just another red sauce joint juke box favorite pouring out like red wine on your checkered table, and then–suddenly–Louis Prima breaks into scat and the tempo jumps into classic New Orleans R&B-influence rock and roll until the saxophone solo kicks in and suddenly you’re not in Tony’s on Bourbon but sitting in Cosimo Matassa’s studio in the musical cradle of New Orleans.

Buona Sera is a perfect segue from Davis McAlary’s suggestion that the city would be better run by the mafia than FEMA or it’s current leadership, but what I remember most is the sequence of fixed shots of the city in the dark ending in the one of three white garbage bags rising up on the wind like ghosts out of the ground ascending to heaven, one of the most beautiful and apocalypticly perfect things I’ve ever seen on a screen.

That’s what happens when you sit down to listen to the Treme Soundtrack, which I picked up around Christmas but have manage to put off writing about here for the past month or more. You are swept back into moments in the show by every song, the music such an integral part of every place it is used, the songs chosen with as much care as casting actors.

As a longtime van of the Jazz Vipers and frequenter of the Spotted Cat, I remember the joy when they placed Annie sitting in to “I Hope You’re Coming Back to New Orleans”, and I can’t listen to Antoine Batiste crooning the beautiful “I Don’t Stand A Ghost of a Chance (With You)” without remembering how the scene ends, with him stumbling into the NOPD cruiser and down on the ground.

I’ve loaned out my copy so I don’t know the release date but on the Treme web page it is listed as a nominee for best record of 2010. I know several BOT correspondents attended the “Soundtrack Release Party” and even with my craftily hustled by Ms. Jasper VIP upgrade none of us–myself, Ray Shea and his girlfriend, or Sam Jasper–could find hide nor hair of the CD in evidence, so I waited and waited and it wasn’t until it jumped out at me on the New Orleans Music Factory table at Gumbo Fest that I picked up a copy, and I’ve been swept down memory lane ever since.

Irma Thomas singing “Time Is On My Side” takes me back to the debates we had here (and with at least one of the writers) over whether Antoine was a reader, remembering how relieved he looked when Allen Toussaint told him they’d be recording from the original charts. The recorded vocals from the Indian memorial interrupted by the tour bus took me back in my mind not only to that moment in the show but also to stellar New Orleans blogger Clifton Harris describing how a tour bus stopped as he cleaned out the Ninth Ward home where his grandmother died. I get lost when Free Agent’s Brass Band starts up “We Came Through That Water,” too overwhelmed by the desire to dance to remember the scene associated with it. (Bullet’s? I don’t recall. Someone here will no doubt remind me in the comments).

As we while away the days with HBO re-runs (and me currently with no HBO) and resist the temptation to pick up some wings and bootleg DVDs at, uh, this place I know, the CD will have to do to get me ready for the coming season. Be sure to watch this space as we get closer to the new season. We’ve got to get through Carnival and all but things should pick up soon. Until then, ladies and gentlemen, please rise for Our Natural Anthem.

P.S. Canzione, Italian for song, is right out of Babelfish and no I don’t know if it’s masculine or feminine so the title has a 50/50 chance of being wrong. Hey, you want gender agreement with that, baby, it’s extra.

P.P.S.–On behalf of the entire male gender we wish to know why Annie isn’t listed under Characters in the categories.

  1. Katherine permalink
    February 8, 2011 2:07 pm

    You got the gender right but the word wrong. Canzone (no I) means song. Canzione is not a word.

  2. February 8, 2011 2:42 pm

    Damn Babelfish. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a towel. Thanks, Katherine.

  3. liprap permalink
    February 8, 2011 4:24 pm

    Funny, Mark, I’m just listening to the Treme soundtrack as I read this.

    Also, your YouTube link? You may wanna get with Virgo to work it into your post with Vodpod. Just sayin’.

  4. Anita permalink
    February 8, 2011 9:08 pm

    I am so glad to see your post here again. You captured the mystical power of that scene with the plastic bag exactly. The entire Buena Sera sequence is rapturous. I played this song all summer and into the fall. All that time and through the winter I have returned to view my recorded episodes and to listen to the album and the mp3’s I downloaded before the album even came out. It’s been a long wait for Season Two and I’m glad to think it is almost over. (Two pieces of good news today. Today was Truck Day in Boston so all the Red Sox gear is now on the highway to Spring Training. Baseball. Treme. Things are looking up.)

    The music is so important and powerful an element of this series that it makes Treme, the television show, seem almost a memory of something that happened to me. Music does actually happen to one in a way images don’t. The genius of the selection of music in Treme is that the story is sandwiched between the powerful experience of that music and the familiarity of this place and it is such a seamless package my brain accepts and files the story in the “experience” archive. As it is, when I watch, I can almost smell the sweet olive in the neighbors’ garden through Davis’s window and the stale beer on Bourbon Street.

    I’ve not even counted my “Indian Red” versions. Sometimes, if I fancy I need to shake something off, I’ll listen to “Drink a Little Poison (4 You Die).” Jeanette dancing, reaching for a swig of beer and smiling after she almost achieved her incredible dream but sadly lost it, is another perfect New Orleans second line. This city will never die because of people who write songs like these songs and dance to them.

  5. doctorj2u permalink
    February 13, 2011 3:22 pm

    Also one of my all time favorite moments from the show.

  6. February 13, 2011 4:23 pm

    I love the night shots of New Orleans during that song. Magical.

  7. wigatrisk permalink
    February 14, 2011 11:26 am

    I like the play of light in that sequence, but particularly the tripled return to the flashing light on the studio’s phone. Is it a reminder of the insistence of the external world, the passage of time that mocks his reverie, or a reminder of the insistence of human contact, the like-minded souls reaching out? I hadn’t registered last year that in the end he replaces the phone with a smile. Great stuff.

  8. February 15, 2011 10:45 pm

    I recently obtained an entire CD of Louis Prima, and I have to say, when Buona Sera comes on all I can think of is that sequence from Treme. Prima himself a mutt–a sloppy mix of Italian and American and New Orleans–mixes romantic and boogie and romance and comedy in a love letter to lovers everywhere. I don’t think there ever was a video for the song, so lucky for us Treme did one. Joy!



  9. February 20, 2011 2:25 pm

    Treme’s first season began airing this last week in the U.K.

    The U.K. Guardian is blogging it. Here’s the first episode:

    Love, C.

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