Zulus. Chefs in their whites. Indians. Voodoo priestesses. Priests and ministers. Political leaders. And all the rest of us.
We walked. We talked to each other. There was a lot of kindness in the crowd. We came to celebrate a humble woman who believed the food could bring us all together. Who was far more than the queen of creole food.
Jazz Funerals. When the procession hits the street, the songs are played as a dirge. Mournful, slow playing. Music that suits the sad mood of a loved one’s passing. But, a song or two in, the mood changes. The brass band plays the first notes for “I’ll Fly Away,” and everybody sings. Dances. Smiles and laughs. It’s celebratory. It’s a joyful noise. It’s Gospel. Blues. Jazz. It’s music.
Lionel Ferbos passed at 103 years old. They say he was the oldest living jazz musician in New Orleans. At 103, I’d say that he was the oldest living jazz musician in the country. He directly linked to the earliest days of jazz. To music that was given birth to in New Orleans. To Louis Armstrong. His time on earth spanned to the current players. I’m listening to a brass band version of “I’ll Fly Away,” by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band as I write. It’s a gospel staple. Johnny Cash sang it. Etta James sang it too. Willie Nelson, too. On Saturday, we heard Charmaine Neville sing it as she walked with the band and Mr. Lionel’s family. Charmaine is one of the Neville Brothers. Only she’s a sister.