Jack Sullivan, “New Orleans Remix” (University Press of Mississippi)

jack sullivanWhen you pass a mirror, it’s hard to not look at your reflection. It’s human nature to be curious about what others see when they look at us. New Orleans Remix provides just such an opportunity for New Orleanians. For nearly three decades, Jack Sullivan, English Department Chair at Rider University in New Jersey, has been visiting New Orleans and observing its music scene. “[…] I heard The Preservation Hall Band and that really changed my life,” says Sullivan in an interview for OffBeat Radio, “I’d never heard anything like that before.”

In almost thirty years of travel he has conducted numerous interviews with the city’s musical elite, including Ellis Marsalis, Gerald French, Jon Batiste, and many others. The quotes from these interviews, which he utilizes liberally, are perhaps the most enticing feature of the book. It’s a who’s who of New Orleans music weighing in on what makes this city’s style of playing so unique as well as the changes that the city has been experiencing over the past three decades.

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. “[…] I realized from interviewing people, especially Jason Marsalis, that it actually all started up in the ‘90s in terms of what’s happening now” says Sullivan. “It’s this great renaissance, as I call it. I think it’s probably the greatest renaissance since the Armstrong era in New Orleans music.”