A New Orleans Jazz Funeral
by: George Payne
Images and Story Copyrighted 2004
Story Below Images. Click on an image to enlarge.
Sadly, there comes a time for every musician when the instrument goes silent. Life's breath slowly passes away and with it their once enchanting melodies become distant memories.
For us in New Orleans, death is the ultimate celebration of a life well lived. It is a time to rejoice. It is a time to celebrate. For we believe that if we do not mark the passing with one final party, then the creator will never know how much the person was appreciated and loved.
Recently, the great New Orleans Tuba Player, "Tuba Fats" passed away. As is our custom, Tuba was sent away in grand style.
Beginning at Poydras and St. Charles, the jazz funeral began. It stretched for almost a mile and slowly wound its way through the French Quarter. Led by two horses pulling an open carriage with Tuba' body laying in state. Bands played and people danced in the streets. Here we call it "second lining." For four straight hours the procession rolled. Behind the horses were a group of men dressed in bright hues of orange carrying umbrellas and dancing The umbrellas spun to the beat of the band that followed. The hymn, "I'll Fly Away" rolled through the air. The band was followed by a crowd waving handkerchiefs in the air. It was almost as they were trying to signal to heaven that although you are gone; you are not forgotten. Finally as the days end, the whole group stood in the middle of the Treme neighborhood with the band playing on. For blocks and blocks the sound floated through the air.
Below is a series of images from Tuba's funeral. For all practical purposes this is an excellent example of classic jazz funeral. It showed the love and admiration we all had for him. Sadly, his horn will blow no more, but in our hearts his song lasts forever. Good luck Tuba.
For those wishing to see a jazz funeral, it is more a question of being in the right place at the right time. God willing, we will see very few of these in the future. We need to hold on to all of the "greats" that are still left.
All Images and Content copyrighted. George Payne 2004. Please do not use without written permission.
All images are by George Payne unless noted.