New Orleans Jazz – News and Views – Lars Edegran

Since 1965 Lars Edegran has been an innovative presence in New Orleans music. His accomplishments as arranger, bandleader, talent scout, record producer, and performer are well-known throughout the world. He received national acclaim when his soundtrack for Louis Malle’s film Pretty Baby was nominated for an Academy Award and his orchestrations for the off-Broadway smash hit “One Mo’ Time” resulted in a Grammy Award nomination for the original cast album.

Lars was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1944. He started taking classical piano lessons at the age of seven but soon developed an interest in playing American music ­traditional jazz and blues – by listening to his piano-playing brother’s band rehearsing at the house. Lars’ father also played music – guitar, banjo & mandolin – and encouraged all his children to learn an instrument. By the late 1950s Lars was playing piano in local Dixieland bands and in 1961 he organized a New Orleans style band with clarinetist Orange Kellin and several other friends, The Imperial Band. This group’s main inspiration were the New Orleans Revival recordings of the 1940s and 50s. The Imperial Band became popular in Stockholm and toured in Sweden and Denmark although most of the members were still at school at the time. More details please visit:-

Lars left Sweden in March 1965 when Bob Koester offered him a job in his Chicago jazz record store. There wasn’t much jazz in Chicago to Lars’ liking so he spent a lot of time in the blues clubs listening to Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, J.B. Lenoir and others. He also got a chance to meet and hear some of his country blues favorites – Big Joe Williams, Son House, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb.

After five months’ stay in Chicago, Lars decided to take the trip down to New Orleans to hear some of his favorite jazz players. He was so overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people and the exciting music at Preservation Hall and other places that he right away decided to give up his job in Chicago and try his luck in New Orleans. He has made New Orleans his home ever since, apart from a six-year hiatus in New York.

Lars’ first musical activities on the New Orleans music scene was playing clarinet in brass bands and he soon became a regular member of Andrew Morgan’s Young Tuxedo Brass Band. On week-ends he played guitar at Munster’s Dance Hall with Tony Fougerat’s band and that way learned a lot of tunes not normally heard on jazz records. On the recommendation of Harry Shields, Lars joined Sharkey Bonano’s band, which at that time played mainly private functions. In 1967 Lars discovered a treasure trove of ragtime orchestrations in the Tulane University Jazz Archives which led to the formation of the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, at that time the only group in the country playing classical ragtime – some six years before the movie “The Sting”. After appearances at the first New Orleans Jazz Festival and the 1970 Newport Festival, the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra began many years of touring and recording and is still active today. The International Dixieland Jazz Band (two Swedes, two Japanese and two Americans), under the leadership of Lars Edegran, held forth at Luthjen’s Dance Hall for two years in the late 1960s and after that Lars began a long stint of working in Bourbon

Street clubs that was to last till his move to New York in 1979. During the 1970s Lars also undertook European tours with the New Orleans Joy Makers, a group of jazz veterans, and the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra.

Lars spent six years in New York being employed by the “One Mo’ Time” company as pianist, musical director and arranger. “One Mo’ Time” was a New Orleans musical that became a hit as an off-Broadway show while playing at the Village Gate in New York City and then had successful runs in London, Toronto, Melbourne, Sydney and Washington, D.C., as well as a number of long tours in the USA and abroad. Lars was involved in all the various companies training the vocalists and working with the bands. While in New York Lars also worked as musical director and arranger in several other theatrical productions. After taking some music courses at the Juilliard School of Music and lessons in big band arranging from Swing Era veteran Eddie Barefield he moved back to New Orleans in 1985.

Lars returned to touring with various jazz bands as well as keeping busy free-lancing on the New Orleans jazz scene. He got a position furnishing the music for the Riverwalk Market Place in 1987 – still going at the time of writing – and the following year replaced Sing Miller in Percy Humphrey’s Preservation Hall Jazz Band. This led to a number of years of touring the USA as well as long stays in Mexico and appearances in Thailand, Israel and Greece. In recent years Lars has spent the winters working in New Orleans and the summers touring Europe; usually with his own group of New Orleans artists but occasionally as a guest artist.

Lars has recorded with numerous jazz greats – Doc Cheatham, Sammy Price, George Lewis, Louis Nelson, Jim Robinson, Jabbo Smith, Percy & Willie Humphrey, Louis Barbarin, Danny Barker, AI Casey, Arvell Shaw – and has produced many recordings in the blues, gospel and jazz field.

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