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It’s A Living Tradition

April 25, 2011

As I asked a year ago when the Chief appeared out of the darkness I wonder how many people outside the city caught the signature feature of this episode: the young boy with a horn who bookends the episode, the one the Chief observes with signature arched eyebrow walking past St. Louis No. 2 struggling to learn to play. That and Delmond’s jazz version of Second Line, so significant after his conversation with Donald Harrison, Jr. at the fundraiser in Season One, were for me the defining moments of Episode 11.

In the weeks just before All Saints Day 2006 I asked the same question the Chief asks all through Season One: what will it take to bring people home, and what might be lost if they do not return:

Until we solve the problems of bringing people home, it remains a critical question: if the overwhelmingly African-American working class of New Orleans cannot come home, will the culture be transmitted? Or will it merely be preserved by well-meaning fans as a thing under glass, taken out and paraded once a year around the Fairgrounds at Jazz Fest like the relics of a saint. What will happen to the children of New Orleans in Houston and Atlanta when there is no role model up the street to make them want to learn trombone, or the intricate rhythms of New Orleans funk? Will all the future Nevilles and Trombone Shorties be left to aspire to be, instead, 50 Cent?

The boy with the trumpet and Delmond’s impassioned answer are Treme’s response to that question. The unintentional irony of the Katrina morgue at St. Gabriel comes back to me, the archangel with the trumpet hosting our ghosts. When the crowd was cheering and aw-ing over Davis and Annie and the show was busying arranging the characters for the second act, I was thinking: blow that horn, son. Blow it for the memory of the ancestors at St. Gabriel. Blow it for the now. Blow it for the future, boy, blow it for that mother-fuckin’ future.

— Wet Bank Guy

(Screen shot captured from HBO GO under a Letter of Marque and Reprisal from the Duchy of Nonesuch.)

  1. April 26, 2011 6:48 pm

    I feel ya on this post.

  2. April 27, 2011 7:50 am

    A Blog Supreme on NPR has the skinny on the trumpet player:

  3. Mistlehrush permalink
    April 29, 2011 10:01 pm

    That boy trying so hard, practicing till he drove his mama to distraction and sweating out the line that it was *hard*–that drove a few things home to this Not From There (Here!) watcher .

    This blog illuminates so much–you can’t imagine what it means to us on the outside looking in at your damaged, frenzied, unique city; your post pressed a bruise.

  4. April 30, 2011 9:43 am

    Finally, more than two minutes at a computer to address this post!

    I don’t know if we want the kid to blow the horn for the memory of the ancestors at St. Gabriel just yet, because those scales need practice. But, what the boy signified in this season opener blows me away.

    – He keeps walking with his horn, not stopping for anything. On and on, through the streets of this city that he knows, never needing to look up to see where he is,
    – That he is encouraged by an elder and not shushed up because this is our normal, and
    – He goes all day and evening, only to be shut down by an NOPD officer, who wants him to go home because he’s out past his curfew.

    He is the music of New Orleans, obviously.

    Law enforcement doing what it thinks is right – they are in charge and, to their credit, don’t want another young victim on these mean streets. The music playing on because it’s gotta come out, doing what it knows is right – it needs the streets to survive.

    Who will make it, and at what cost?

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