"People understood what we were doing. There were a number of people gathered and just crying."

Brass-a-Holics I'll Fly Away
Credit: Armon Dauphin

Deprived of traditional ways of mourning, three jazz musicians in hard hit-New Orleans came up with a moving way to “send home” those they’ve lost to the novel coronavirus.

Inspired by the passing of a close friend’s mother, Brass-a-Holics bandleader Winston "Trombone" Turner told Jazz Night in America that he and his fellow musicians felt the need to honor the deceased like they would have, ordinarily.

And in New Orleans, that means with music.

“I thought let’s go somewhere in an open place, and let’s dress the way we would dress, with the respect we would have if we were bringing them home. And let’s play one of the tunes that we normally play when they’re coming out of the church,” Turner recalled to Jazz Night in America, a radio and web series produced by NPR, WBGO, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

So, he picked up his trombone and called on two friends, vocalist Emeka Dibia (Mecca Notes) and trumpet player Tannon "Fish" Williams, to record a socially distant performance of "I'll Fly Away" in City Park.

“Ninety percent of the traditional jazz funerals I’ve played, we’ve played that one tune at every one,” Turner said of the traditional New Orleans funeral song by Albert E. Brumley. “And everyone sings together. It’s just something that resonates in our community.”

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“It felt so food to be able to do something,” he continued. “While we were out there, people understood what we were doing. There were a number of people gathered and just crying.”

Thank you for the beautiful tribute. We’re crying too!