Roll With It: Brass Bands in the Streets of New Orleans (Refiguring American Music) (Paperback)
Roll With It is a firsthand account of the precarious lives of musicians in the Rebirth, Soul Rebels, and Hot 8 brass bands of New Orleans. These young men are celebrated as cultural icons for upholding the proud traditions of the jazz funeral and the second line parade, yet they remain subject to the perils of poverty, racial marginalization, and urban violence that characterize life for many black Americans. Some achieve a degree of social mobility while many more encounter aggressive policing, exploitative economies, and a political infrastructure that creates insecurities in healthcare, housing, education, and criminal justice. The gripping narrative moves with the band members from back street to backstage, before and after Hurricane Katrina, always in step with the tap of the snare drum, the thud of the bass drum, and the boom of the tuba.
About the Author
Matt Sakakeeny is an ethnomusicologist and journalist, New Orleans resident and musician. An Assistant Professor of Music at Tulane University, he initially moved to New Orleans to work as a co-producer of the public radio program American Routes. Sakakeeny has written for publications including The Oxford American, Mojo, and Wax Poetics. He plays guitar in the band Los Po-Boy-Citos. Willie Birch is an international artist who lives in New Orleans, where he was born in 1942. Birch received his BA from Southern University New Orleans in 1969 and his MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 1973. He is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the State of Louisiana Governor's award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His works are part of the permanent collections of the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
"Matt Sakakeeny tells the story of a vibrant, living culture in prose so vivid and moving, it is matched only by the music about which he writes. His illuminating examination of the contemporary New Orleans brass band culture reveals what it means to create great art, to continually mold and revise a tradition, and to try to make a living under an often dehumanizing racial regime—a complex urban world where making music can be a matter of life and death. Roll With It not only opens our ears to the music and its urban echoes, but it opens our eyes, enabling us to finally see the people who make the second line move."—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
"A new essential in the post-Katrina history of New Orleans, Roll With It is, perhaps, the most astute and clear-headed assessment of how the musical essence of New Orleans is ingrained in the personal and political lives of those who live in that extraordinary city. The brass-band culture detailed lovingly here by Matt Sakakeeny is no mere entertainment to those who understand it, nor is it there as tourist-bait or as a museum piece of quaint tradition. This is New Orleans itself, arguing for itself, and using culture as language and currency. To the extent thus far possible, what has saved New Orleans–more than government fiat, or grand economic imperatives, or any hint of functional leaderships–is in the street, damn near every Sunday afternoon."—David Simon, creator of the television series The Wire and Treme