James Reese Europe Honored

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Friday December 14, 2018

From The Washington Informer

James Reese Europe Honored at Kennedy Center Concert
By: Eve M Ferguson

If the name James Reese Europe doesn’t strike a familiar chord, you may not be alone. But Jason Moran, artistic director for jazz at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, was determined to reintroduce and restore the name to its respectful and rightful place.

Europe was a man who lived and breathed music, and is credited with many firsts in African-American history. Born in 1880 in Mobile, Alabama, Europe moved north with his family to D.C. at an early age, attending Dunbar High School before moving to New York in 1904. That is where and when he began his life of important ‘firsts’:

He was the first African-American man to organize the Clef Club, which served both as a union and booking agency for musicians of color.
He was also the first Black man to play Carnegie Hall in 1912, where he and 125 other musicians of color took to the stage to resounding approval.
Through the act of assembling the Harlem Hell Fighters Band, Europe became the first man to introduce jazz to the European continent, where it is still revered and supported more than in the United States to this day.

‘I’ve been trying to think about why he would really jump that far, to sign up,’ said Moran, who has meticulously researched Europe’s music and life. ‘He has something to prove. This is maybe one generation after the Emancipation Proclamation is signed, so the notion of ‘freedom’ is still foggy.’

‘And here we are with enough radical thinkers challenging the system, composers charging into the concert halls with real intention, and James Reese Europe and his men do the unimaginable as far as I am concerned,’ Moran said. ‘They sign up to fight.’

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