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Jazz funeral

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Jazz funeral

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Jazz funeral is a common name for a funeral tradition with music which developed in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Drummers at the funeral of jazz legend Danny Barker Drummers at the funeral of jazz legend Danny Barker

The term "jazz funeral" was long in use by observers from elsewhere, but was generally disdained as inappropriate by most New Orleans musicians and practitioners of the tradition. The preferred description was "funeral with music"; while jazz was part of the music played, it was not the primary focus of the ceremony. This reluctance to use the term faded significantly in the final 15 years or so of the 20th century among the younger generation of New Orleans brass band musicians more familiar with the post-Dirty Dozen Brass Band funk influenced style than the older traditional jazz New Orleans style.

The tradition arises from African spiritual practices, French and Spanish martial musical traditions, and uniquely African-American cultural influences. The tradition was widespread among New Orleanians across ethnic boundaries at the start of the 20th century. As the common brass band music became wilder in the years before World War I, some "white" New Orleanians considred the hot music disrespectful, and such musical funerals became rare among the city's caucasians. For much of the mid 20th century, the Catholic Church officially frowned on secular music at funerals, so for generations the tradition was largely confined to African American Protestant New Orleanians. After the 1960s it gradually started being practiced across ethnic and religious boundaries. Most commonly such musical funerals are done for individuals who are musicians themselves, connected to the music industry, or members of various social aid & pleasure clubs or Carnival krewes who make a point of arranging for such funerals for members.

The organizers of the funeral arrange for hiring the band as part of the services. When a respected fellow musician or prominent member of the community dies, some additional musicians may also play in the procession as a sign of their esteem for the deceased.

Musicians play for a funeral leaving Saint Augustine Church in the Treme neighborhood; Dr. Michael White in foreground Musicians play for a funeral leaving Saint Augustine Church in the Treme neighborhood; Dr. Michael White in foreground

A typical jazz funeral begins with a march by the family, friends, and a brass band from the home, funeral home or church to the cemetery. Throughout the march, the band plays somber dirges, hymns. A change in the tenor of the ceremony takes place, after the deceased is either buried, or the hearse leaves the procession and members of the procession say their final good bye and they "cut the body loose". After this the music becomes more upbeat, often starting with a hymn or spiritual number played in a swinging fashion, then going into popular hot tunes. There is raucous music and cathartic dancing where onlookers join in to celebrate the life of the deceased.

Some younger funk and hip hop oriented brass bands often dispense with the dirges and hymns all together, or perform only one (usually "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," the only such tune still in the repertory of some such bands).

Notable People Who Have Received "Jazz Funerals"

Danny Barker
Ernie K-Doe
Alan Jaffee
Anthony Lacen (Tuba Fats)
Professor Longhair
Allison "Tootie" Montana
Alphonse Picou

External links


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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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