Wendell Pierce and Jaron Williams

Cheers to Treme for letting Wendell Pierce cut loose.

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The immensely appealing actor, best known for his role as dogged Det. Bunk Moreland on Treme cocreator David Simon's The Wire brings humor, buoyancy and Nawlins-native street cred to the role of trombonist Antoine Batiste on HBO's post-Katrina drama. The second season has allowed Pierce — and his character — to grow, as he's started up his own band, Antoine Batiste and the Soul Apostles (fronted by the wonderful vocalist Wanda Rouzan) and taken a job teaching band in the New Orleans public-school system. The classroom scenes are reminiscent of the peerless education-themed Season 4 of The Wire.

And who knew Pierce could sing so well? "Even Wendell didn't know," Simon recently told me, but the guy's got a great voice and a true love of music, as evidenced by his side gig hosting NPR's Jazz At Lincoln Center. He's also the mastermind and sometime emcee of the current tour A Night in Treme, featuring musicians seen on the show, like Kermit Ruffins, Rebirth Brass Band, Donald Harrison Jr., and Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk. Oh, and Pierce has a role in the next Twilight movie. Does this man ever sleep?

Are you jazzed about Wendell Pierce — and Treme?

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