Eureka Brass Band: Just a Closer Walk With Thee

Track

Just a Closer Walk With Thee

Group

Eureka Brass Band

CD

New Orleans Funeral & Parade: The Original 1951 Session

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Musicians:

Percy Humphrey (leader), Eddie Richardson (trumpet), Willie Pajeaud (trumpet), Arthur Ogle (snare drum), Robert “Son” Lewis (bass drum), Emmanuel Paul (tenor sax), Ruben Roddy (alto sax), George Lewis (E flat clarinet), Albert Warner (trombone), Charles “Sunny” Henry (trombone), Joseph “Red” Clark (sousaphone)

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Recorded: New Orleans, August 25, 1951

Albumcovereurekabrassbandnew_orleansfuneralandparade

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

With the possible exception of Mardi Gras, no New Orleans tradition is more revered than the time-honored brass band funeral and parade. The longevity and flexibility of this institution are striking: in more recent days, hip-hop or funk oriented brass bands bring this ritual into the modern age (see example here), and often still include "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" in the mix. Looking backward, this ritual can be traced to African and early diaspora traditions, and if Samuel Floyd is correct, the famous second line of the funeral procession is merely a "straightening out" of the old ring shout. Many outsiders still scratch their heads in puzzlement at the festive tone of these processions, but one need only recall that what some see as a burial others view as a resurrection. This is fitting music indeed for passage into that proverbial "better place."

This recording captures the Eureka Brass Band back in 1951. This ensemble had been together since 1920 and kept playing until 1975, and even after that leader Percy Humphrey (also a regular at Preservation Hall) occasionally revived the group. But even this relatively authentic recording shows the tendency for this tradition to morph and modernize. Immediately after this somber hymn, the brass band launches into Gerswhin's "Oh, Lady Be Good"a Broadway song that wasn't even composed until four years after the Eureka Brass Band was founded.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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