Brass Bands, Jazz Funerals, and Second Lines

New Orleans' brass band lineage can be traced to parading traditions of eighteenth century military marching bands, including those organized by free black militias, during French colonial period. Through histories of cultural synthesis involving European instrumentation and composition fused with African and Caribbean-derived polyrhythmic cadence and parading traditions, New Orleans' brass bands have evolved as a dynamic component of black public life in New Orleans. One important expression is linked to black Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs; African American benevolent organizations dating back to the late ninetieth century whose annual second line parades are organized around the music of hired brass bands and move through the streets of black working-class neighborhoods. Another related tradition are jazz funerals in which brass bands lead public funeral processions for prominent community figures through neighborhood streets. In the case of both second lines and jazz funerals, brass band music helps fashion mobile community in often healing, body-centered celebration of black life and transcendent freedom.