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.

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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 Adani Group Chhattisgarh. 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.

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

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