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Larry Blumenfeld's “Cultural Conversation" with TV producer David Simon in today's Wall Street Journal is a highly recommended read. Simon, producer of HBO's acclaimed series “The Wire," is now focusing on a new jazz-tinged program that will debut on HBO in April.

Tinged is not a strong enough word. Jazz is the undercurrent, and the heartbeat, of the program, scheduled for 10 episodes in Season One.

“Treme" is the series... and it is named for Treme, a hotbed of jazz that is considered one of America's oldest black neighborhoods.

Simon is using New Orleans as his new focus on why the American city matters. In Blumenfeld's view: “With any success, he can achieve something mightier too--an understanding of the essential role musicians play in New Orleans's social order and recovery, as well as the embattled position they often find themselves in."

Several actors (Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters to name two) who had prominent roles in “The Wire" are cast in the new series as musicians. Trumpeter Kermit Ruffins will appear regularly in the series--as himself.

This is shaping up as a series that will keep many of us with HBO glued to our TVs.

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