I thought you would enjoy this piece written by Gaynielle “Queen G” Neville about how music flows from generation to generation, from the death of a treasured New Orleans musical icon, to the birth of a new New Orleans superstar…
The sunrise was spectacularly beautiful on Monday, September 12, 2011.
This particular day marked events that were iconic in the history of cultural preservation, once again proving that New Orleans is one of the most diverse and unique places there is. It’s one of the cities that will forever be identified as a place that most music lovers are blessed to experience. All the glamour and significance of this glorious day, as well as the fascinating ambiance of it, are here in my own words.
Funerals are one aspect of life where no one truly knows what will happen. When you see a close relative or friend pass, the somberness of a funeral puts you in a hesitant state after seeing bereaved families grieve over their precious loved ones.
But that wasn’t the case in the funeral procession of a true great legend and bandleader whose life was celebrated at Corpus Christi Church on St. Bernard Avenue.
Wardell Quezergue was a musical genius who brought a whole new musical edge to just about every artist and every song he touched. Most artists who were blessed to include Wardell in their musical endeavors, dubbed him as such. His masterful arrangements, honestly labeled him the father and pioneer of horn, string and musical arranging and producing.
Corpus Christi Church was packed even during the viewing of the remains. Wardell’s adult children greeted fellow mourners as they walked through the door. Friends and peers came to pay homage, pay their last respects, and to say good-bye to New Orleans’ own musical conductor and arranger, “The Creole Beethoven.” All who were there reminisced about the great moments in music that he arranged, and remembered him through their own experiences. Wardell was forever taking what one may call an average sound up to a massive musical arrangement that made history. His is a name that’s etched in stone—this father of horn and string arrangements had abilities that took our music to another plain entirely.
The testimonies at the event were so moving, as students of Dr. Quezergue and fellow musicians got up to give their praise and honor to this great man. A main highlight was “Deacon” John Moore, who gave a tearful eulogy and a splendid rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Any Day Now.” Then, one by one, artists and musicians walked to the podium to pay their full homage to one of the greatest arrangers born in the city of New Orleans.
The funeral was never slow-moving and when the services came to a close you could hear the jazz musicians who were lined up outside of the church revving to serenade Wardell Quezergue in one last hurrah before bringing the remains to their final place of rest.
The sons and elders of music royalty, jazz and music greats, from James “12” Andrews, Kermit Ruffins, Mark Mullins, Craig Klein and the Dirty Dozen’s horn section were in the number of artists who proudly gave their last blare of their instrument in the highest regard and acknowledgement of the King of the strings, New Orleans own, the Creole Beethoven.
Four hours later, when the sun was setting, there was another historical event at Tipitina’s Uptown. The club was packed on the early evening of Monday, September 12, 2011, with the highlight of the evening was about to go down, featuring a certain star quality in the air: Trombone Shorty was going to be streamed live on Liveset. The big production and excitement was the debut of the brand new second release of his anticipated CD For True on Verve Records.
Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk opened for the extravaganza and graciously held it down as the opening act. This was also the debut of their new female drummer Nikki Glaspie in New Orleans. It was the first time I have witnessed her playing with Dumpstaphunk, and she brought a certain modish appeal to their huge sound and placed them in the super-group status for eternity. Every song was tightly performed and it was clearly obvious why this group travels all over the country. The option to place them before Trombone Shorty was truly an ingenious move that will be discussed around water coolers on the next working day and days to come for sure.
The music spirit of the night was definitely upon us. It was 9:30 and the people in the club were hyped, awaiting Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews to grace the stage along with his young but veteran band mates, Orleans Avenue. Shorty opened his show with an instrumental composition that had the crowd ecstatic that they were a part of a night that was surely an historical moment, with the crowd singing along with a yelp of “Hey” as Shorty sang a call and answer riff. Troy Andrews’ immediate family and friends were there to happily support New Orleans’ favorite son, as the cameras rolled. There were also a host of guest performers who appeared on Shorty’s CD. New Orleans was out in abundance that night, including our esteemed mayor, Mitch Landrieu. A host of musicians and guests were there to see and be a part of this remarkable young man’s night: a young superstar who has grown into one of the best well-rounded musicians the city has to offer. The night was amazing and as a native of New Orleans, it was an honor to celebrate the release of Troy “Trombone” Shorty’s, new record and witness the rise of his career.
Monday, September 12, 2011, represented a major significance for the people of New Orleans. This city has been through the ups and downs from Hurricane Katrina to the Gulf Oil spill, but just like our diversity in music and culture, our city represents greatness. New Orleans is one of the best survivor cities ever created.
There is nowhere else you can go and witness a musical icon’s funeral and second line to the brass section of some of the finest musicians the world, but also celebrate the genius of an up-and-coming generation of quality musicians who continue to bring a wonderful uniqueness and charm to the heart and soul of New Orleans music. And it was all on a Monday in New Orleans.