Last Journey of a Jazzman
The Funeral of Lester Santiago
(Nobility 709)

Lester Santiago, famed New Orleans Jazz pianist and composer, died on January 18, 1965.

This album is a live recording, a documentary of that uniquely New Orleans tradition, the Jazz funeral, a ceremony reserved for only the most esteemed among the New Orleans Jazz community.

The recording was made while following the funeral procession through the streets of New Orleans. In 1965, such a recording was not the relatively easy affair that it is today. The recorder alone weighed more than fifty pounds, and added to that was the difficulty of having to manage microphones, cables, and assorted other devices -- not to mention the intermittent rain that fell on New Orleans that day.

Paul Barbarin gathered the Onward Brass Band together at Caledonia Hall about a block away from the Blandin Mortuary where the body of Lester Santiago lay. The band warmed up with a parade tempo version of "Just a little While to Stay Here." Then, with the rain beating down, the drums, muffled now with a solemn, relentless beat, paced the band as they played the traditional hymns -- "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "Lead Me, Savior" and others, moving from the funeral home to St. Peter's Baptist Church where two ministers, Baptist and Unity, conducted brief services in addition to the Masonic Rites.  Paul Barbarin then re-formed his group for the long walk to the cemetery. It was a heart-breaking, difficult time for the men of the Onward Brass Band this day. All of them were long-time associates of Lester Santiago, and to walk all that way behind him must have been almost too much to bear, but what finer tribute could they pay Lester than give him what he wanted most the music he loved so much.

The funeral procession followed the traditional pattern Lester knew so well. After he was laid to rest and the mourners were leaving the cemetery, the beat quickened and the tunes changed to joyous swing sounds. The followers, "Second Liners" they are called, danced along the rain-swept New Orleans streets, as always is their function -- the trumpets blew their finest -- the reeds soared over the trombones, mellophones and tuba, and the snares and bass drum crisply and smartly set the pace for the long walk back.

Lester Santiago was the undisputed master of the traditional jazz piano in New Orleans.
Narration by:
Alford Grayson Clark, the
founder of Dixieland Hall

Music by:
Paul Barbarin and the
Onward Jazz Band
Price: $17.99
©2009 Nobility Studios, Inc.