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What a Friend We Have in Jesus (3:32)

Charles C. Converse
Performed by:
Excelsior Brass Band from "The Essence of New Orleans Jazz

That's a traditional old gospel number. A jazz band can play anything, it can play a hymn or pop song on the hit parade, it doesn't matter. In New Orleans the religious tunes are as important as the jazz tunes. Religion is very important to the early beginnings of New Orleans jazz. A lot of the jazz musicians in New Orleans were brought up in the church so they have respect for the church. It's the way they improvise it, and the feeling, that makes it jazz.

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" is played on the way to the funeral home. So it's usually done as a slow dirge. And then coming back from the cemetery the band might play "When the Saints Go Marching In," another religious tune, but totally different. It's a totally happy philosophy; the person should be happy that they have died because they are going off to a better life. It's got to be better than what they had, they're freed of the problems they had in life.