Produced and hosted by trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, Up From the Streets is a documentary film that attempts to chart the history and development of the city of New Orleans through music.
The film combines archive footage with live performances from contemporary New Orleans bands and interviews with influential figures from Robert Plant and Sting, to Harry Connick, Jr. and Wynton Marsalis.
Beginning with the city’s earliest musical moments, such as the African drumming brought to the American South by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Up From the Streets covers a vast period of time up to the present day and moves through genre charting the common elements that characterise the city’s musical output.
Partly as a consequence of this expansive time covered, it acts more as an introductory overview than an in-depth exploration.
Even so, the film succeeds at highlighting the important role of music within wider society. Throughout the film, music can be seen both as a product of the environment and societal conditions in which it developed and a tool for actively changing those same conditions. Key figures like Louis Armstrong are considered within the social structures that operated around them.
At certain points, the relatively short runtime does feel as though it holds the narrative back and it could easily be split into two or three separate features that focus more specifically on a particular genre, figure or time period.
In spite of this, Up From the Streets meets its key objective by providing an enjoyable, thought-provoking and moving timeline of the music of New Orleans.