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Regional Traditions: Jazz Funerals

Flee as a Bird to the Mountain

Louis Armstrong described a New Orleans Jazz Funeral to Edward R. Murrow in the documentary film Satchmo the Great.

And, speaking of real beautiful music, if you ever witnessed a funeral in New Orleans and they have one of those brass bands playing this funeral, you really have a bunch of musicians playing from the heart, because as they go to the cemetery they play in a funeral march, they play "Flee As a Bird," "Nearer My God Today," and they express themselves in those instruments singing those notes the same as a singer would, you know. And, they take this body to the cemetery and they put this body in the ground. While he's doin' that the snare drummer takes the handkerchief from under the drum, from under the snare, and they say "Ashes to Ashes" and put him away and everything, and the drummer rolls up the drum real loud. And, outside the cemetery they form and they start swinging "Didn't He Ramble." And, all the members, the Oddfellows, whatever lodge it is, they are on this side. And on this (other) side is a bunch of raggedy guys, you know, old hustlers and cats and Good-time Charlies and everything. Well, they right with the parade too. And, when they get to wailin' this "Didn't He Ramble," and finish, seems as though they have more fun than anybody, because they applaud for Joe Oliver, and Manny Perez, with the brass band, to play it over again, so they got to give this second line, they call it, an encore. So, that makes them have a lot of fun too, and it's really something to see.



/Stay tuned, more to come.

-- Mark D. Lacy

Get more information from:
The Museum of Funeral History



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