didn't he ramble
"Didn't He Ramble" (also referred to as "Oh! Didn't He Ramble") was composed by J. Rosamond Johnson, James Weldon Johnson, and Bob Cole in 1902. The trio worked as a songwriting team, creating numerous songs that are still played in today's Traditional New Orleans Jazz Repertoire.
Background and performance tips on
"Didn't he ramble"
by mark braud
Traditionally, at New Orleans jazz funerals, brass bands play slow, mournful hymns as the deceased’s body is carried out of the church and placed in a hearse or horse-drawn carriage. The band continues to play in this fashion until the procession reaches the cemetery. Once the priest or minister finishes performing his benediction and the congregation begins to leave the cemetery, the band strikes up a more up-beat selection of songs in celebration of the deceased’s life.
The joyful songs continue until the funeral ends and the congregation disperses. One of the most popular of these joyful songs is, “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble.”
I recommend listening to The Original Tuxedo Jazz Band’s version from Original Tuxedo Jazz Band in Baden (1964). Personnel: Jack Willis (tp), Cornbread Thomas (cl/vox), Frog Joseph (tb), Jeannette Kimball (p), Papa French (banjo), Frank Fields (bass), and Louis Barbarin (drums).
Listen for the traditional 16 bar drum cadence intro, followed by an eight bar “roll-off” to bring the band into the song. The “front line” (group of melodic horns) consists of clarinet (Thomas), trumpet (Willis), and trombone (Joseph), and this particular group is known for playing as a truly cohesive unit.
Pay particular attention to Willis’ interpretation of the melody and the embellishments he plays, Joseph’s use of staccato notes (which are characteristic of his rhythmic interpretation of the “tailgate” trombone style), and Thomas’ vocals, which invite listeners to enjoy the joyful, spirited nature of the song.