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As Old as Jazz Itself: Trumpeter Lionel Ferbos Passes On After 103 Years

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Aug 01, 2014 10:30 AM EDT

Lionel Ferbos may have been as old as jazz itself as he celebrated his 103 birthday this July 17, still gigging as the oldest living jazzer of the day. Alas, Ferbos died two days after that birthday on July 19.

His life spanned the Roosevelt administration to the Obamas. And Louis Armstrong was just 10 years his senior. Of course, Ferbos went on to outlive Satchmo and many other greats who toiled in similar NoLA venues.

In the 1970s, he played trumpet for the house band of the musical "One Mo' Time," toured Europe several times with the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra and wrote charts for the Danny Barker-led brass bands the revived that idiom's tradition.

A modest player, he set out to do nothing more than simply play the tunes. Never reckoned as the flashiest player of the bunch, he found success nonetheless with a determined, disciplined style.

In August 2013, Ferbos and the Louisiana Shakes were featured for one of the monthly concerts trumpeter Irvin Mayfield hosted at his home in the Broadmoor neighborhood. There, he sang "When I Grow Too Old to Dream" and brought the house to tears.

While Ferbos did slow down a bit--he had not performed in public since March 30--his prolificacy and prominence remained legend.

Apropos, he received a much deserved homage at the Palm Court Cafe from members of his family--which he attended but was unable to perform at due to his deteriorating condition.

A great, indeed, here is a performance from Ferbos just three years ago at one of his favorite spots: the Palm Court Jazz Cafe.

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TagsLionel Ferbos, Louisiana Shakes, The Palm Court Cafe, New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, Danny Barker, One Mo' Time

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