Jazz Funeral Music to Help You Say Goodbye

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Jazz funerals are a tradition in New Orleans, and the music can be both somber and celebratory. Here are some of our favorite songs to help you say goodbye.


Music has always been an important part of funerals, serving as a way to comfort the bereaved and honor the departed. While funeral music can take many different forms, from somber hymns to upbeat pop songs, Jazz funerals have become increasingly popular in recent years.

A Jazz funeral is a traditional New Orleans funeral procession in which mourners march to the cemetery accompanied by a brass band playing funereal music. The music is often upbeat and celebratory, reflecting the belief that death is not the end but merely a transition to the afterlife.

If you’re planning a Jazz funeral or are simply looking for some good Jazz funeral music to help you say goodbye, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best tracks out there. From traditional Jazz standards to modern interpretations, there’s something for everyone.

What is a Jazz Funeral?

A Jazz funeral is a musical tradition in New Orleans, Louisiana, whereby a funeral procession celebrating the life of the deceased departs from the church or funeral home to the cemetery accompanied by a band playing mournful dirges on the way to the burial ground and upbeat tunes on the return journey.

Jazz funerals typically involve two different types of music: slow, dirge-like tunes played on the way to the cemetery, and lively, uptempo numbers played on the way back from graveside. The two styles of music serve different purposes: while dirges help mourners to process their grief and grieve openly, uptempo tunes foster a sense of hope and celebration, honoring the deceased’s life rather than their death.

Jazz funerals often attract large crowds of people, both mourners and onlookers, who follow the procession through the streets. The bands playing at jazz funerals are typically brass bands, which are a staple of New Orleans’ musical culture.

While jazz funerals are most commonly associated with New Orleans, they have also been held in other cities with large African-American populations, such as Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, and St. Louis.

The History of Jazz Funeral Music

A jazz funeral is a celebration of life, characterized by the procession of a jazz band playing slow, mournful music followed by a second line of revelers dancing to up-tempo tunes. The tradition is most associated with New Orleans, but similar funerals can be found in other cities with large African-American populations, such as Chicago and New York.

The history of jazz funeral music is deeply rooted in the African tradition of using music to commemorate the dead. When slaves were brought to America, they brought their musical traditions with them. These traditions blended with the music of their new home to create a unique sound that would come to be known as jazz.

Jazz funerals began to gain popularity in the early 20th century, as New Orleans became known for its vibrant music scene. The funerals became even more popular after Louis Armstrong made his famous recording of “When the Saints Go Marching In” in 1938.

Today, jazz funerals are still a common sight in New Orleans. They are often used to celebrate the lives of famous musicians or other local celebrities. Jazz funerals are also held for ordinary citizens who have lived rich and full lives.

No matter who is being celebrated, a jazz funeral is always a joyous occasion. The slow procession gives way to a lively second line, as friends and family dance and celebrating the life that has been lived.

How to Choose the Right Jazz Funeral Music

Music is an important part of any funeral, and choosing the right music can be a difficult task. If you’re planning a jazz funeral, you’ll want to choose music that is both respectful and reflective of the life of the person being honored.

There are many different types of jazz funeral music to choose from, and the right type of music will depend on the tone you want to set for the funeral. If you’re looking for something traditional, consider choosing hymns or spirituals. For something more modern, there are many contemporary jazz artists who have recorded funeral music.

It’s also important to consider the length of the funeral when choosing music. If it’s a shorter service, you may want to choose one or two songs that can be played in their entirety. If it’s a longer service, you may want to choose several different pieces of music to be played throughout.

When choosing jazz funeral music, it’s important to consult with the family of the person being honored and see what type of music they would like. You can also speak with your local funeral home or religious leader to get recommendations.

Tips for Playing Jazz Funeral Music

When you’re planning a jazz funeral, it’s important to choose music that is respectful and celebratory. Jazz funerals typically begin with somber dirges played by a brass band, followed by lively second-line marching tunes. Here are some tips to help you choose the right music for your event.

1. Choose music that was popular during the person’s life. If you’re not sure what kind of music the deceased liked, ask their family or close friends.

2. Select songs with positive lyrics that celebrate life. Jazz funerals are meant to be a celebration of the person’s life, so it’s important to choose music that reflects that sentiment.

3. Consider the tempo of the music. Dirges should be slow and mournful, while second-line tunes should be upbeat and lively.

4. Make sure the band is comfortable playing the chosen songs. Jazz funerals often involve complicated arrangements, so it’s important to make sure the band is up for the challenge.

5. Work with the funeral director to ensure that the music fits into the overall service. Jazz funerals are typically very structured events, so it’s important to make sure the music fits into the schedule and flow of the service


We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to jazz funeral music. While there are many ways to say goodbye, a jazz funeral can be a beautiful and transformative experience. If you’re looking for more music to help you through the grieving process, we recommend checking out our guides to the best sad songs and the best funeral songs.

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