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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Jazz Classic - this belongs in your collection, 13 Jun. 2011
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This review is from: Jazz Funeral In New Orleans (Audio CD)
George Lewis first came to the public's attention in 1917, as clarinettist with Kid Ory. However, during the Depression, George returned to work as a docker to supplement his meagre income from musical engagements. A musician of his talent and originality was never going to disappear forever, though, and he returned to note in a 1942 session with Bunk Johnson. Alan Lomax, the folklorist, began to champion Lewis as a tradition-bearer of the early New Orleans jazz that had by then all but vanished from the public eye as fashions had changed: even the mainstream of commercial swing, which had replaced "Dixieland", was now itself being supplanted, in the minds of musicians at least, by the vanguard of bebop.

George Lewis became a darling of the "Trad" revival, although he was no dusty museum piece himself, despite the conservatism of his fan base. This album is a must for all jazz fans. (We are long past the time when jazz was polarised into Bebop versus Trad, and no fan of one was supposed to listen to the other). It is a real classic of the "New Orleans" style, and one of the best of the Trad revival. The ensemble sparkles together, and the solos fizz with energy. If you only have one "Trad" album, this should be it.

There is, of course, a debate to be had about how faithful this recording (and others of its ilk) might be to the early jazz Lomax thought it represented. We can't just compare it to early recordings, because quite apart from the huge variation in sound quality between 1917 and the 1950s (when this was recorded), it has been argued that early recording technology forced early jazz musicians to play quite differently in the studio to the way they would naturally play live. At very least this is certainly true for drummers and pianists recording in ensembles, which was bound to have a knock-on effect on the way others played in relation to them.

Furthermore, a musician like Lewis was never going to stand still. His playing was going to mature and progress, not languish in aspic.

So buy this for what it is - a classic of 50s New Orleans jazz, played by musicians rooted in the tradition, but who were vibrant, living exponents of their art, not dusty academics reproducing the past.

One final word: don't be put off by the title - these sides are not dreary; this is a jazz party.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent CD, 23 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Jazz Funeral In New Orleans (Audio CD)
This CD fully met my expectations. I had some difficulty finding it initially but was able to find it through use of Google and then via Amazon.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Digi-reissue of classic New Orleans live performance, 7 July 2012
Soundsearcher (Birmingham England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jazz Funeral In New Orleans (Audio CD)
I've acquired this album only recently, encouraged partly by Soluble's excellent review and my own enthusiasm for authentic roots jazz music.So I can't claim that my review adds a lot to the earlier submission, but I'm adapting this review from the one I wrote for a more obscure edition I was tracking on EBay, 'cos I hope it'll reach more music enthusiasts attached to this particular reissue.

This album by George Lewis and his Ragtime Band is a reissue of "Jazz Funeral at New Orleans", a live performance from October 26th 1953. Lewis played in over 500 such processions in his lifetime (1900 - 1968).

Don't let that slightly morbid title fool you, because this clarinet maestro and his band - and dozens of other local musicians and singers - were certainly capable of providing spiritual sustenance that would embellish the celebration of a lost one's life.

On the original album, the parade music begins in solemn mood with "When The Saints..." and " Just A Closer Walk With Thee" but progresses through "Down By The Riverside", "Burgundy Street Blues", "Ice Cream" etc through to their jaunty celebration of "Lou-Easy-Ana."

At this point in the black man's history in the Southern States, folks paid into Negro benevolent societies, allowing the families of the departed to pay for a worthy funeral including a full band, ensuring that music would play well into - and often through - the night of wake events.

As the sleeve notes on my vinyl reissue say, George Lewis certainly expressed the heart & soul of New Orleans jazz; this record features authentic traditional jazz classics played with great heart and skill.

I'll close by shamelessly cribbing the closing paragraph from my LP sleeve, to give you an image of how to approach this vintage recording:

"Just close your eyes and you can almost see a happy swaying parade weaving down Bourbon Street, the strutting band of George Lewis in the lead, and throngs of merry-makers dancing along behind - the sorrow of the past forgotten and the promise of a happier tomorrow in every joyous note".

I hope these notes encourage you to investigate this and other classic jazz recordings - make sure you find the early recordings of Kid Ory & the immortal Louis Armstrong, then work your way from there through Noo Awlins' fantastic musical legacy to Dr. John's great new album - what a great journey through the history of music that is!

To sidetrack slightly, if funds and time are of consequence, just track through Mac Rabennack's own unimpeachable catalogue and you have enough great music to take you through a month of Sundays! Thanks, Doc.

This George Lewis bnnd album might also make you think about how you'd like to be remembered and celebrated when you've passed away; it comes to us all, but music of this kind was fashioned with love and sincerity to provide spiritual healing.
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Jazz Funeral In New Orleans
Jazz Funeral In New Orleans by George Lewis (Clarinet) (Audio CD - 2002)
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