785: Roll With It by Matt Sakakeeny

by Gerard


785.0650976335: Sakakeeny, Matt. Roll With It: Brass Bands in the Streets of New Orleans. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013. 192 pp. ISBN 978-0-8223-5567-0.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 700: Fine Arts
  • 780: Music
  • 785: Ensembles with only instrument per part
  • 785.065: Jazz ensembles
  • +0976335: Orleans Parish, Louisiana, United States

Perhaps one of the best known cultural products of New Orleans outside of beignets and Mardi Gras is the jazz ensemble. Countless aspiring musicians gather there to truly understand the music and their craft. Matt Sakakeeny’s Roll With It travels alongside these ensembles in Post-Katrina New Orleans and tries to get inside the culture that pervades the city. He follows three different bands—Hot 8, Rebirth, and The Soul Rebels—as they deal with everyday issues and continue to raise the caliber of jazz music. A lot of the narrative focuses on jazz funeral processions and their impact on the social landscape, and while death forms an unnerving backdrop to the story, it’s the lives of the artists that make it interesting.

Sakakeeny has quite bit to say about race relations in Louisiana and jazz culture, but mostly it’s the music and the stories that kept me reading on. You can actually find a lot of videos of the three bands online and occasionally I lifted my head from the text to indulge in the music. Also, throughout the book are art pieces by Willie Birch depicting his perspective on the musicians and the city. The book as a whole feels like a field report from an embedded journalist, but I think it helps bring the reader closer to the stories. A very well done book.