The book was co-edited by Bruce Sunpie Barnes, principal photographer, and Rachel Bruenlin, co-director for the Neighborhood Story Project, who came together to help document the Music for All Ages program Barnes was running at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. It begins with the history of the Black Men of Labor (BMOL) Social Aid and Pleasure Club, which was formed after seminal New Orleans jazz musician Danny Barker’s brass band funeral in 1994, with roots in the civil rights movement. One of the chief missions of BMOL is to preserve the legacy of brass band music through an adherence to traditional songs, and by pairing younger musicians with legendary brass and jazz musicians around the city. As well-known for their bold sound as they are, the band is also known for its bold style of dress. Band members are adorned in Afro-centric blazers custom-made from imported fabric. Eric Waters, who served as the official photographer for BMOL, has been documenting the group since its inception and has amassed a powerful archive of photographs. A large portion of which — nearly 10 years’ worth of images — was lost in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Inspired by the concept of photographing BMOL musicians against a backdrop of rich textiles in the same style of famed Malian photographer Seydou Keita, jazz photographer and co-creator of “Talk That Music Talk” Bruce Barnes collaborated with Neighborhood Story Project to photograph present-day jazz musicians in the same style.
“One of the things I wanted to show with the photography was the movement of musicians around the city — be it a brass band funeral, a group of musicians playing at Jackson Square for tips, or a concert in a formal setting,” Barnes explains in the book. “Photography is very much like music in that you must learn to improvise.”