Funeral Services Held For Jazz Clarinetist Pete Fountain

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Pete Fountain has ridden in his final parade.

         For years, the New Orleans jazz clarinetist and his Half-Fast Walking Club concluded their annual Mardi Gras morning stroll at the Hotel Monteleone. And that's where Fountain's second-line procession, complete with horse-drawn hearse, ended Wednesday after his funeral Mass at St. Louis Cathedral.

         Despite being one of the city's best-known musicians, his family shied away from turning his funeral into an all-star concert.

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         Benny Harrell, Fountain's son-in-law and longtime manager, told The New Orleans Advocate’s Keith Spera that it was very important that a traditional service, presided over by Archbishop Gregory Aymond, be held.

         "The archbishop graciously offered to preside over the Mass. That was very important for Pete and the family," Harrell said.

         The Mass was not without music though.

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         Trumpeter Jimmy Weber, who played in Fountain's band from 1978 to his final performance at the 2013 Jazz Fest, performed "Amazing Grace" as the casket was closed following morning visitation at the cathedral. Irma Thomas sang "Precious Lord" during the offertory. Her somber rendition earned a round of applause.

         And clarinetist Tim Laughlin, Fountain's protégé and friend, reprised "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," one of Fountain's signature songs, during the recessional at the conclusion of the Mass.

         "I may never play it in the key of F again," Laughlin said before the service. That was Fountain's preferred key: "He owns it."

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         Fountain died Aug. 6. He was 86.

         Fountain's funeral Mass ended with a column of priests in ivory-colored vestments escorting his casket toward the door of St. Louis Cathedral, Laughlin's rendition of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" wafted through the building.

         NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune’s Doug MacCash reports the procession was met by a crowd of waiting Fountain mourners, plus a gaggle of eager photographers. Pallbearers slid Fountain's glinting caramel-colored casket into the back of the 19th-century style horse-drawn hearse.

         With a peal of whistles and the blare of brass band music, Fountain's second line parade began surging through the crowd on Jackson Square. Among the tangle of marching band members, who may have numbered 50 altogether, were stars Kermit Ruffins, James Andrews, Mark Mullins, Craig Klein, and others.

         Trombonist Mike Genevay, a Fountain sideman since 1978 and the unofficial music director of the Half-Fast Walking Club, assembled the band for the march. Featuring at least a half-dozen tubas, it included members of Fountain's own band, the Storyville Stompers, the Gentilly Brass Band and the Dukes of Dixieland, the long-running traditional jazz band that decades ago briefly featured a young Pete Fountain.

         "Rest in peace, Pete, baby," shouted a young man passing by.

         Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who had spoken at Fountain's funeral, was prominent among the marchers. By the time the parade reached Royal Street, Landrieu had begun dancing to the rhythm of the music.

         The procession ended at the Monteleone, where the splendidly chaotic marching band played on for a song or two as paraders danced in place. Fountain's coffin was removed from the hearse and placed in a motorized vehicle. He will be buried in a private ceremony on Friday..

         For more information from The New Orleans Advocate

         For more information from NOLA.com/ The Times-Picayune

 

 

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