Foreign Jazz Musicians Pay Tribute To ‘Father’ Al Lewis
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ International musicians in town for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival paid tribute Monday to old-time great ″Father″ Al Lewis with a traditional jazz funeral.
Lewis, 87, a banjo and guitar player, died April 12. He played with King Oliver and the Preservation Hall jazz band and made numerous tours of Europe and Japan with the New Orleans Joymakers.
The city’s music community gathered last week at a church memorial for Lewis, but the funeral was held Monday - in the midst of the 10-day jazz festival.
The Treme Brass Band swelled to about 20 musicians, including clarinetists from Norway and trumpeters and trombone players from Japan, as foreign jazzmen joined in to escort Lewis’s body.
″Playing this funeral keeps the tradition going,″ said David Paquette, a New Zealand pianist.
Jean-Marie Hurel of Paris, a trumpet player with the Fidgety Feet Jazz Band, was at his first jazz funeral, blowing clear and strong as ″A Closer Walk With Thee″ began the trek from the funeral home.
About 100 people marched behind the hearse while the band played ″What a Friend We Have In Jesus,″ ″Just a Little While to Stay Here″ and ″When The Saints Go Marching In.″
Burial was 50 miles away in Houma, where Lewis was born, so the musicians bid farewell after a two-block march, breaking into the upbeat ″Didn’t He Ramble″ to ″cut the body loose.″
The musicians returned to the funeral home for traditional street dancing known as the second line, wrapping up with ″Shake, Rattle and Roll.″
Danny Barker, another famous New Orleans banjo player, remembered the way Lewis enjoyed passing out trinkets between songs - surprising members of the audience with key chains and other baubles.
″Father Al gave you everything,″ Barker said. ″He liked people, and that was his gimmick when he could afford it.″