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James Reese Europe
James Reese Europe
James Reese Europe
Genres: Jazz, Pop
  •  Track Listings (24) - Disc #1

James Reese Europe was a major figure in New York's African American musical community in the years leading up to World War I. He collaborated with Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle and worked closely with the popular dance tea...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: James Reese Europe
Title: James Reese Europe
Members Wishing: 2
Total Copies: 0
Label: IAJRC Records
Release Date: 12/25/1999
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Styles: Swing Jazz, Traditional Jazz & Ragtime
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 602551101221

James Reese Europe was a major figure in New York's African American musical community in the years leading up to World War I. He collaborated with Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle and worked closely with the popular dance team of Vernon and Irene Castle. With the outbreak of war, Europe formed the Hell Fighters Band, part of the African American 369th U.S. Infantry. The band returned to the U.S. to great acclaim in February 1919, and the 24 tracks heard here were recorded in New York between March 3 and May 7 of that year. Two days later, Europe was stabbed to death by a disgruntled drummer, Herbert Wright, during an intermission in a Boston concert. Though he was a titanic figure--he was the first African American officer to lead men into battle and Eubie Blake called him "the savior of Negro musicians"--Europe's fame soon turned to obscurity. In 1995, Reid Bodger's thorough biography of Europe, A Life in Ragtime, appeared, rekindling widespread interest, and the following year saw the appearance of this music on two different CDs. A large band of brass, reeds, and percussion, with vocals by Noble Sissle, Europe's orchestra plays the popular music of the day with a distinctive spirit and a marked rhythmic fluency uncommon in orchestral ragtime. W.C. Handy is prominent in the repertoire ("St. Louis Blues," "Hesitating Blues," "Memphis Blues"). The songwriting team of Europe, Blake, and Sissle ranges in their subject matter from "Jazz Baby" to the wartime experiences of "No-Man's Land." Europe's associate Tom Bethel contributed "That Moaning Trombone" with its vocal effects, while "Clarinet Marmalade" comes from the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Despite the references to jazz, though, this is a band poised on the jazz era, not a jazz band, with improvisation largely limited to brief "breaks." Songs from White and African American composers alike contribute to the complex representation of black life in America, one alive with both stereotypes and new possibilities. Another edition of these 24 recordings, James Reese Europe's 369th U.S. Infantry "Hell Fighters" Band, appeared a few months later on Memphis Archive with the tracks arranged in an order that would resemble a Europe concert rather than organized chronologically, as they are here. Both versions provide a worthwhile portrait of a major figure in American music; however, they also represent slightly different philosophies of sound restoration. The IAJRC preserves much of the static to avoid loss of detail; the Memphis Archive is much cleaner and generally far more listenable. The Memphis Archive edition also contains far more supporting material, a detailed 44-page account of Europe's life and music by Tim Gracyk. --Stuart Broomer

CD Reviews

Europe's arrangements come close to swinging
The Dixieland Man | 10/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"With the exception of singer/comedian Bert Williams and a few obscure gospel groups, James Reese Europe and his orchestra were the first black musicians to ever record. Europe's Society Orchestra cut eight numbers during 1913-14, several years before the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. It would be inaccurate to call that music jazz since it was essentially written-out arrangements without any real improvising, but Europe's performances were influenced by ragtime and hinted slightly at the syncopations of jazz. Unfortunately, none of those historic performances have yet been reissued on CD but his 1919 "Hell Fighters" Band's 24 recordings have been released on Featuring Noble Sissle from the collector's IAJRC label. Tragically, Europe was stabbed to death by an irate drummer just two days after the final recording which is why he is obscure in jazz history and was unable to make his mark in music in the 1920s. Europe had a large and unusual group that was comprised of four trumpets, four trombones, seven clarinets, two saxophones, two baritone horns, a tuba and two drums; in addition, Noble Sissle took occasional vocals and C. Creighton Thompson sings "Jazz Baby." Such future jazz standards as "St. Louis Blues," "Darktown Strutters' Ball," "Ja Da" and "Clarinet Marmalade" are among the songs performed but this is prejazz dance music (although much hipper than nearly all of the orchestras and military band on record at the time). Europe's arrangements come close to swinging, four years before King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton made their first records. An essential acquisition for collectors."
An essential disc for the American music lover
bookscdsdvdsandcoolstuff | USA | 05/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I am thrilled to own this wonderful disc. James Reese Europe is an essential part of American Music history and is finally starting to get his due. The music on this disc is comprised of Europe's complete recordings made at the Pathé recordings studios in New York City during the months of March and May of 1919. It will be very obvious to anyone listening that these recordings were made during the record industry's infancy; hiss and pops abound. However R.T. Davies, the same man who did the highly regarded Louis Armstrong Hot Fives and Hot Sevens remasters for the J.S.P. label, does not disappoint here. He has cleaned up the sound as much as possible without distorting the music. Europe's entire ensemble can be heard as well as technology will allow.Europe is usually not omitted from university jazz history classes; he is far too important. However, as of last year, main stream America was largely ignorant of him. Ken Burns, in his documentary Jazz, gives Europe a good amount of tape, and more people are coming to his music. Europe is so important because he bridges the gap between the military brass bands playing marches and the prototype big band led by Fletcher Henderson and Don Redman out of New York. Given Europe's high profile and status after W.W.I, it is impossible to think that Fletcher Henderson would be unfamiliar with his music. Europe was a direct and powerful influence on the future evolution of American music.His war record is also worth mentioning. A good number of songs on this disc relate directly to the war; "On Patrol In No Man's Land," and "All Of No Man's Land Is Ours," are both examples of this. These songs are not based on a behind the scenes view of the war. In W.W.I, army musicians fought. In Mark Berresford's substantial booklet that accompanies this disc, we learn that the 369th U.S. Infantry (Europe's all African American Regiment) were not allowed to fight alongside their white counterparts. They were placed under the command of the French Army and made their effect known. To quote Berresford: "The troops of the 369th saw action in both the Meuse Argonne area and in the Vosges mountains of Eastern France... Europe himself saw action as commander of a machine gun company, and in June 1918 was badly gassed." They performed so well under combat conditions that the French nicknamed the regiment the "Hell Fighters."After risking his life for his country Europe came home and served us by playing the important role in the evolution of American music outlined above. I strongly recommend you purchase this disc. An intimate relationship with this music will enrich your life."
Fascinating look at very early jazz!
Brenna Lorenz ( | Guam | 01/05/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is an exciting CD full of some of the earliest jazz you'll ever hear, recorded by Jim Europe, the African-American band leader from New York City. The music here is transitional between march, ragtime and jazz. Some of the stirring melodies will be familiar from old Fleischer cartoons. The songs are absolutely irresistible: you'll soon be singing along with Mirandy, Jazz Baby, Jazzola, and How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm!"