This gloriously messy celebration of New Orleans’ musical heritage is a tasty okra of uniquely American ingredients – jazz, blues, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, gospel, funk, hip-hop – generously seasoned with love and of respect for most Africans. American artists who have forged this heritage over the past three centuries. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches, spoon after spoonful of fascinating cultural history descending upon you until you feel (in the end) that you may not be able to take another bite of it.
Beginning with 18th-century Sunday afternoons when slaves and free men crowded into Place du Congo in the Tremé neighborhood, the film organizationally chronicles Crescent City’s myriad of musical scenes by genre. Still, there is so much to cover that it often feels like it has been put together haphazardly, albeit wonderfully. His de facto The Hall of Fame includes musical icons such as Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, James Booker, Fats Domino, Cosimo Matassa, Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Professor Longhair and Dr. John, to name a few- a few. In addition to a few rare archival celluloid images (there’s Sweet Emma Barrett on the piano!), From the top of the streets features relatively recent clips of performances by Irma Thomas and the Neville brothers, among others. Regarding the latter, the film observes that families such as the Neville and Marsalis clans have contributed greatly to the ethnomusicology of the city, even if the kinship often goes beyond blood. As one talking head observes, “The problem with New Orleans is that we all know each other, even though we’ve never met.”
While a few relatively famous people (read: white) like Keith Richards, Robert Plant, and Harry Connick Jr. make candid appearances here, the film is primarily narrated by several Grammy-winning trumpeters, Terence Blanchard, one of its executive producers. Based on Blanchard’s dominating presence, the business appears to be his baby, though director Murphy’s passion is also evident. Appearing in several scenes apparently filmed over a long period of time (it’s unclear how long it took to make this film; some of the contestants are long dead), Blanchard sports a large collection of eyewear as he genuinely praises those who came before him and those who continue to make music in his hometown. He also occurs in a few interludes accompanied by E-Collective and singer Quiana Lynell that were shot for the film, including a haunting rendition of McCartney / Lennon’s composition “Blackbird,” a song that indirectly recognized the movement. 1960s civil rights. But the musical trope the film returns to time and time again is the chaotic joy of a marching band strolling down a street in the French Quarter, drawing people from all walks of life to come together and celebrate. life, if only for a while. In these increasingly polarized times, wouldn’t it be nice to experience this nice sense of community every now and then?
Up From the Streets: New Orleans: The City of Music is currently available through Eagle Rock’s initiative to purchase streaming “tickets” through virtual box offices for local arthouse theaters. Choose from:
• AFS Cinema (Tickets here)