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Talking To The Musicians Of 'Treme'

According to Kermit Ruffins, this scene with Elvis Costello was based on another incident involving Mick Jagger. Skip Bolen/HBO hide caption

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Skip Bolen/HBO

According to Kermit Ruffins, this scene with Elvis Costello was based on another incident involving Mick Jagger.

Skip Bolen/HBO

Owing to our weekly recaps of Treme, the editors of JazzTimes asked me to profile the HBO show for their magazine. That item is in the July/August print edition, and also online now in its entirety.

I ended up talking to three personable New Orleans jazz musicians for the piece: trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr., and trombonist Jeff Albert. The former two are both consultants and actors in the program; Albert is not, but I wanted the perspective of a NOLA musician who wasn't involved in the show. (Albert is also, as you may know, an occasional blogger.)

Because there was so much to cover in only 900-ish words, I only got to use a few quotations in the piece: one each from Ruffins and Harrison, and none from Albert. But everybody had much more to say. Here are some select bits from our conversations:

Kermit Ruffins:

  • On playing himself: I play myself, which is a lot of fun, I tell you man. I ain't had so much fun doing a project in a long time. And I never thought it was going to be so much fun.
  • On the Elvis Costello scene in episode one: It was actually Mick Jagger that was in the bar. I didn't realize — I didn't catch his face. I was nice and high, playing my trumpet, crowd full of people, and [the real] Davis walked up to me, said, 'Man that's Mick Jagger? Don't you want to meet him?'"
  • On New Orleans: We believe in partying for a living.
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Jeff Albert:

  • On watching the show: Sometimes it's hard to deal with that again. It's so good that it wigs me out a little bit. This isn't drama that I need to do over.

Donald Harrison, Jr.:

  • On the heart of the show's authenticity: If you have guys from the Rebirth Brass Band playing their music, they way they play it, on screen, then it's hard to get wrong. And I think that's the brilliance of David Simon and Eric Overmeyer and [co-executive producer] Nina Noble, is that they get the people who actually do it, and look at what they're doing, and how it feels, and what it looks like. And they also ask us, 'What do you think? How can we make this better?' Which never happens ... When I was at major record companies, nobody asked me how I felt!
  • On the finished product: I went to the premiere, and we saw it on a large screen. I felt like I was in the second line. If it feels like you're actually there, then they're getting it right.