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Cie Frazier

Cié Frazer was a successful jazz drummer in New Orleans for much of the twentieth century.

Cie Frazier

Courtesy of Louisiana State Museum

Josiah "Cié" Frazier Playing Drums. Unidentified

With a professional musical career spanning more than six decades, Josiah “Cié” Frazier is recognized as one of New Orleans’s founding fathers of traditional jazz drumming. Frazier performed with countless greats during his lifetime, including Paul Barbarin, Oscar “Papa” Celestin, “Sweet” Emma Barrett, Kid Howard, and Sidney Desvigne. Frazier performed in both Celestin’s Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra and Tuxedo Brass Band from an early age, and he would go on to play in numerous other jazz ensembles and brass bands, including a long stint as a drummer with the Eureka Brass Band. A fixture at New Orleans’s famed Preservation Hall from the 1960s through the 1980s, Frazier also appeared in several feature films.

Frazier was born on February 23, 1904, in New Orleans into a musical Creole family; his older brother Sam played with a number of New Orleans bands after World War I. While still a teenager, Frazier purchased his first drum set and studied formally with influential early jazz drummer Louis Cottrell Sr., James “Red Happy” Bolton, and Eddie “Face-O” Woods. In 1924 Frazier joined cousins Lawrence and Eddie Marrero in the Golden Rule Band, led by the violinist Alcide Frank. By the mid-1920s, Frazier was playing with the Young Tuxedo Orchestra, with John Robichaux’s pit band at the Lyric Theater, and with Sidney Desvigne’s Orchestra. In 1927 Frazier joined Papa Celestin’s Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra, with whom he made his first recording in that same year.

In 1928 Frazier joined A. J. Piron’s orchestra, where he remained until 1932. During the Depression he played in the federally supported Works Progress Administration (WPA) band. During World War II he played for a US Navy dance band as part of his military service from 1942 to 1945. Frazier cut an influential record with trumpeter/cornetist “Wooden” Joe Nicholas’s New Orleans Band called A Nite at Artesian Hall in 1945. During the 1950s Frazier returned to working with Celestin, supplementing these gigs with performances with Percy Humphrey at Manny’s Tavern in New Orleans, George Williams’s brass band, “Sweet” Emma Barrett, and the Eureka Brass Band.

Beginning in the 1960s, Frazier became a regular featured performer at Preservation Hall and would embark on a number of European tours with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. In 1961 he recorded a series of influential tracks with Kid Howard, many of which are considered classics of the genre. In 1962 Frazier joined the Eureka Brass Band as a permanent addition, though he quit after a year due to fatigue from marching along the long parade routes the band was frequently hired to play. Something of a jazz celebrity by this time, Frazier appeared in both Norman Jewison’s The Cincinnati Kid, starring Steve McQueen, and the 1969 documentary American Music: From Folk to Jazz and Pop. Frazier would continue to record and perform well in to the 1980s.

Frazier died of pneumonia at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans on January 10, 1985.