Since the 1990s,
New Orleans has experienced its greatest musical renaissance since the Louis Armstrong era. Brass band, funk, hip hop, Mardi Gras Indian, zydeco, and other styles are rocking the city in new neighborhood bars far from the Bourbon Street tourist scene. Even “neo-traditional” jazz musicians have emerged in startling numbers, making the old sound new for a younger generation.
Superb artists little known to the general public -- Leroy Jones, Shammar Allen, Kermit Ruffins, Topsy Chapman, Aurora Nealand, the Brass-A-Holics – are pioneering new sounds layered on NOLA tradition. A surge of female, Asian, Latin, and other once-marginalized groups are making the vibe more inclusive than ever. A few artists covered in this book -- the Rebirth Brass Band, Trombone Shorty, Jon Batiste -- have broken into the national spotlight, but most are still obscure.
Based on dozens of interviews and archival documents, this book presents their perspectives -- how they view their present lives in relation to a vital past. The city always has held fiercely onto the old even as it welcomed the new, a secret of its success. Marching tunes mingled with jazz, traditional jazz with bebop, Mardi-Gras Indian percussion with funk, zydeco with rock and roll, producing wonderfully bewildering yet workable fusions. New Orleans opera, an astonishingly rich and under-reported phenomenon, has been intimately intertwined with jazz for over a century, another layer this book reveals, and artists like Wynton Marsalis, Big Chief Donald Harrison, and Terence Blanchard are pioneering new operas and symphonies.
All of this happens because of the unique catalytic power of the city itself. Why did New Orleans spawn America’s greatest music and why does it still burn so fiercely, long after the great jazz eruptions in Chicago, Kansas City, and others have declined? How does a tradition happen that is intensely creative for generations, and what elements go into its continuity? How has the huge influx of immigrants to New Orleans, especially since Hurricane Katrina, contributed to the city’s current musical profile, bringing creativity but also controversy?
This book seeks answers through the ideas of working musicians who represent dramatically different sensibilities, their voices often as eloquent as their music.
Praise for New Orleans Remix
"Sullivan’s just-published New Orleans Remix is a superb blend of history and reportage, sparkling with insights from years of interviewing the artists and a learned lens on cultural patterns. A five-star book."
- Jason Berry, New Orleans Magazine (full review)
"Mr. Sullivan lays thorough groundwork in the way he traces the origins of New Orleans jazz, brass, and funk to their roots in the city. He puts a surprising emphasis on opera among other influences. He uses this research to put the current music scene into context and concludes that fierce adherence to tradition, along with regular influxes of new creative energy, have facilitated a vibrant, diverse and intensely creative music scene."
- Stacey Leigh Bridgewell, Offbeat Magazine (full review)