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  • List of Artwork  vii
    Prologue. Crossing the Threshold  ix
    Introduction. Forward Motion  1
    1. Onward and Upward  13
    2. Constraints  69
    3. Progressions  109
    4. Voices  143
    Conclusion. Engagements  179
    Afterword. Image and Music in the Art of Willie Burch / Willie Burch and Matt Sakakeeny  187
    Acknowledgments  195
    Appendix. List of Interviews and Public Events  199
    Notes  201
    Bibliography  213
    Index  227
  • Willie Birch

  • Roll With It, which includes striking black-and-white illustrations by New Orleans artist Willie Birch, is at once celebratory and saddening: a book of personal stories and a highly researched academic work.” — Geraldine Wyckoff, Offbeat

    “Fascinating. . . . The musicians' personal stories are interwoven with historical information, academic reflection, and personal experience, combining to form a highly original work that creates a vivid portrait both of this musical format and the noble but beleaguered city of New Orleans.” — Florence Wetzel, All About Jazz

    “As Sakakeeny makes clear, the story of the city’s brass bands is far more complex than music alone. Beyond its entertainment value, music serves as the ‘site where competing social, political, and economic vectors intersect.’ In many ways, these vectors serve as a microcosm for the problems within the city at large.”
    Kirkus Reviews

    “A notable work in that it’s the first critical project to chronicle New Orleans’ bombastic contemporary brass-band scene, the generation of musicians that grew up with century-old hymns in one ear and hip-hop in the other; also, and importantly, it’s a keen, social-justice-minded examination of the turbulent mix of race, economics, culture and tradition in which brass band culture is located.” — Alison Fensterstock, Times-Picayune

    “Sakakeeny offers detailed accounts of parades and the inner workings of the bands. The book offers a full picture of their lives and how the city’s cultural economy works on the factory end. Sakakeeny observes the way the city celebrates its culture and especially its musicians, but the book also exposes the way many of them survive on the same earnings as low-rung service industry workers. It’s an engaging look street-level look at the bands that so often are used to represent and symbolize the city.” — Will Coviello, Gambit

    "Roll With It is informative on many levels, detailing song structures, jazz history, neighborhood developments, and weaving information together through anecdote and research. It also poses a bigger question: If our city has economically benefitted from selling culture as a post-Katrina resource, are musicians getting what they deserve? Roll With It explores the answer.” — Samuel Nelson, Where Y'at?

    Reviews

  • Roll With It, which includes striking black-and-white illustrations by New Orleans artist Willie Birch, is at once celebratory and saddening: a book of personal stories and a highly researched academic work.” — Geraldine Wyckoff, Offbeat

    “Fascinating. . . . The musicians' personal stories are interwoven with historical information, academic reflection, and personal experience, combining to form a highly original work that creates a vivid portrait both of this musical format and the noble but beleaguered city of New Orleans.” — Florence Wetzel, All About Jazz

    “As Sakakeeny makes clear, the story of the city’s brass bands is far more complex than music alone. Beyond its entertainment value, music serves as the ‘site where competing social, political, and economic vectors intersect.’ In many ways, these vectors serve as a microcosm for the problems within the city at large.”
    Kirkus Reviews

    “A notable work in that it’s the first critical project to chronicle New Orleans’ bombastic contemporary brass-band scene, the generation of musicians that grew up with century-old hymns in one ear and hip-hop in the other; also, and importantly, it’s a keen, social-justice-minded examination of the turbulent mix of race, economics, culture and tradition in which brass band culture is located.” — Alison Fensterstock, Times-Picayune

    “Sakakeeny offers detailed accounts of parades and the inner workings of the bands. The book offers a full picture of their lives and how the city’s cultural economy works on the factory end. Sakakeeny observes the way the city celebrates its culture and especially its musicians, but the book also exposes the way many of them survive on the same earnings as low-rung service industry workers. It’s an engaging look street-level look at the bands that so often are used to represent and symbolize the city.” — Will Coviello, Gambit

    "Roll With It is informative on many levels, detailing song structures, jazz history, neighborhood developments, and weaving information together through anecdote and research. It also poses a bigger question: If our city has economically benefitted from selling culture as a post-Katrina resource, are musicians getting what they deserve? Roll With It explores the answer.” — Samuel Nelson, Where Y'at?

  • “Damn, now that’s musicology. . . . Among the book’s other accomplishments, it’s a model of how to write an academic text that can engage a real-world reader."
    Ned Sublett

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  • Description

    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(s)

    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.

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