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I've been thinking about starting a thread about James Reese Europe for awhile now. The more I learn about him, the more I am blown away by how seminal a figure he was in African American history, especially music history.

Anyway, I just found this excellent short youtube doc. Check it out

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N-H-RJ3T-E

There's a great book that covers Europe's career: Harlem in Montmartre: a Paris Jazz Story by William Shack.

Looks like PBS did a thing on the book.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/episodes/harlem-in-montmartre/preview-of-harlem-in-montmartre/827/

The book is very comprehensive, but it neglects entirely the huge role Europe had in bringing a generation of Latino musicians to Harlem.

Europe was an absolutely incredible man who, like King Curtis (and of course countless other unknown African American men), died too young by being stabbed.
 

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I'd heard recordings of his military band - sort of a wild, non-conformist kind of band for that genre. I don't know about being the Father Of Jazz, though. Lots of conflicting history about how jazz began. But Lt. Europe was on the leading edge, alright. DAVE
 

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Seems to me I've heard a record or two of Jim Europe's Clef Club orchestra, made in 1914. It was a fine orchestral ragtime unit except that it had way too many rhythm instruments. Histories speak of 10 banjos, 10 pianos (seriously - 10 pianos), etc. No way did all those make it into the studio, but there was a definite imbalance, with the melodic instruments very far back from the horn.
 

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Seems to me I've heard a record or two of Jim Europe's Clef Club orchestra, made in 1914. It was a fine orchestral ragtime unit except that it had way too many rhythm instruments. Histories speak of 10 banjos, 10 pianos (seriously - 10 pianos), etc. No way did all those make it into the studio, but there was a definite imbalance, with the melodic instruments very far back from the horn.
Yes...definitely a kind of protojazz in that sense, although, interestingly, Europe was the first American composer/arranger to use the saxophone as something other than a novelty instrument, and he substituted trombones and clarinets for bassoons and oboes to create a "big" sweet/hot mixture that absolutely prefigures the big band "jazz" sound. Also interesting: it was Clef Club member Buddy Gilmore who basically invented the modern jazz drum set.

Another thing I read is that Europe's musicians were all crack readers, but he did not allow sheets on the bandstand. The reason was he felt the sight of black musicians reading would upset white audiences who insisted that authentic black music must be unlearned and spontaneous. Plus c'est change...

I like this quote from Jonathan Gill's Harlem:

Europe, a black Republican and acolyte of Booker T. Washington's gospel of hard work and self-sufficiency, filled the gap by founding the Clef Club, a union, booking agency, and social group that helped to demolish the barrier between popular and concert music in the United States and therefore had a central role in making black music the popular music of all Americans (192).

And then there is his importance in bringing jazz to Europe in the interwar years.

Apparently, Europe also coined the term "gig."

Too bad real music history is so boring! :)
 

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...would make a great movie! Can Wynton act?
 

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Jim Europe was not a jazz musician,and he did not employ jazz musicians.The history of jazz is set in stone as far as I am concerned, it started in New Orleans.There is absolutely no real evidence of any other explanation.
 

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Jim Europe was not a jazz musician,and he did not employ jazz musicians.The history of jazz is set in stone as far as I am concerned, it started in New Orleans.There is absolutely no real evidence of any other explanation.
The birth and evolution of jazz is quite diverse but obviously your opinion is set in stone.

Europe was a very interesting fellow as were his bands, musicians and dancers. The guy definitely thought out of the box.

I first became aware of him by accident when I was doing research on the wind music of Kurt Weill, all of which was written in Europe in the years leading up to WWII. Weill was highly influence by American jazz and, as I looked into which American influences Weill and his conspirators might have come across, I bumped into James Reese Europe so I got to learn a little about him, as well, picking up some recordings and reading up a bit.

I don't know if he's being given his due in contemporary jazz history books now, but I don't recall ever hearing about him in earlier writings. Could've been there, but didn't stick on me, if it was.

Thanks for starting this thread.
 

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Jim Europe was not a jazz musician,and he did not employ jazz musicians.The history of jazz is set in stone as far as I am concerned, it started in New Orleans.There is absolutely no real evidence of any other explanation.
I'm the last person who is going to diminish the importance of New Orleans in jazz...or blues...or rock and roll. Still, it's a pretty big leap from Satchmo to Duke Ellington composing jazz suites for Carnegie Hall, isn't it. What I'm suggesting is a history of jazz that's a little more capacious than the average jazz fans cd collection. YMMV

peace!
R.

Hi Gary!
 

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Hi Rory!
Capacious? Why do I always leave one of your posts feeling a little less literate than when I entered it? :mrgreen:
 

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Hi Rory!
Capacious? Why do I always leave one of your posts feeling a little less literate than when I entered it? :mrgreen:
I, for one, have always enjoyed you and Rory's perspicacity.
 

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listen to the drummer in Europe's band - Gilmore - he is definitely a near-jazz player; also, listen to the 1919 Europes which swing less, but have some improvisation; listen to Wilbur Sweatman's band, which had elements of early jazz. Listen to Zez Confrey's early recordings and then Eubie Blake's early piano work; also JP Johnson's early recordings and even earlier piano rolls. New Orleans is where it came together most convincingly, but to say "New Orleans is it" is to cut a lot of music out of the loop. And then read my book That Deviln Tune, which goes into a fair amount of pre-1920s music. Jazz was the flowering of a lot of 19th century elements, from early professional songwriters to early and late minstrel songs, from early show music to ragtime pieces to, finally, Jelly Roll Morton.
 

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Another such WWI military band leader was Lt. J. Tim Brymn, who wrote the lyrics for AUNT HAGAR'S CHILDREN (an adaptation of AUNT HAGAR'S BLUES, credited to W.C. Handy). His military band was renowned in that era. In the second stanza of the first part, the lyrics go, "What's all this razzin', about the jazzin', my boys have just come home, with latest music, they play it on the saxophone". No doubt jazz AND saxophone-related. DAVE
 

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I, for one, have always enjoyed you and Rory's perspicacity.
Perspicacity? Hey man, ~I~ didn't touch her. It was Rory!

OK, OK, maybe there was that one time after her Papa Zeus' big 5000th birthday party and we all had too much Grapa and the way the moonlight was falling on her Acropolae and . . .
 

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listen to the drummer in Europe's band - Gilmore - he is definitely a near-jazz player; also, listen to the 1919 Europes which swing less, but have some improvisation; listen to Wilbur Sweatman's band, which had elements of early jazz. Listen to Zez Confrey's early recordings and then Eubie Blake's early piano work; also JP Johnson's early recordings and even earlier piano rolls. New Orleans is where it came together most convincingly, but to say "New Orleans is it" is to cut a lot of music out of the loop. And then read my book That Deviln Tune, which goes into a fair amount of pre-1920s music. Jazz was the flowering of a lot of 19th century elements, from early professional songwriters to early and late minstrel songs, from early show music to ragtime pieces to, finally, Jelly Roll Morton.
Thanks Allen! Glad to have you here. I only have a passing acquaintance with your works but your post remind me that maybe it's time to get back and get busy. It's an honour, man.
 

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“We called it ragtime.” Armstrong(b. 1901) (said of King Oliver’s music).


Joplin (b. 1867) was not from New Orleans. Handy (b. 1873) was not from there. Willie "The Lion" Smith (b. 1893) was from New York. Eubie Blake (b.1887) was from Baltimore.

"Jazz was growing up in different parts of the country without one part necessarily knowing what the other part was doing." Wilbur De Paris (b. 1900)

"It all started because Louis Armstrong and King Oliver happened to come from there." Walter Gould (b. 1875)(on the story that jazz was created in New Orleans)
 

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thanks, Gary.

I don't want to de-emphasize New Orleans, because one of the great truths of jazz is how much the Northern musicians were effected once the N.O. guys started to migrate. This gave everything a new kind of swing. But the whole realm of jazz has, IMHO, to do with many concurrent events; for one example, the earliest report of the classic vocal/instrumental call and response comes from mid-19th century minstrel shows. This is an essential element of the idea of improvisation - and African Americans were improvising from the moment they were trapped in Middle Passage.
 

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thanks, Gary.

I don't want to de-emphasize New Orleans, because one of the great truths of jazz is how much the Northern musicians were effected once the N.O. guys started to migrate. This gave everything a new kind of swing. But the whole realm of jazz has, IMHO, to do with many concurrent events; for one example, the earliest report of the classic vocal/instrumental call and response comes from mid-19th century minstrel shows. This is an essential element of the idea of improvisation - and African Americans were improvising from the moment they were trapped in Middle Passage.
+1 on Gary's comment...great to have you here Allen!

FWIW: I've just finished reading Harvey Cohen's excellent study Duke Ellington's America. Quite rightly, I think, Cohen portrays Ellington as a pioneer and trailblazer in legitimizing Jazz as simultaneously serious and popular music, as a composer/musician and, almost as importantly, as a bandleader/ entrepreneur/businessman on one hand, and an international ambassador on the other.

Cohen writes:

Of all the black musical figures preceding Ellington, James Reese Europe came closer to achieving the kind of career Ellington enjoyed and Joplin dreamed of: multiracial international success in highbrow and popular circles. If not for his tragic death....Europe may well have brought jazz to a wider audience a decade before Armstrong and Ellington did, and changed the entire direction and definition of black music (26).

This kind of says it all IMHO. I think it's fair to consider whether Ellington could have had such a powerfully transformative impact on American culture if the table had not been set, so to speak, by an important forerunner like JRE. It's also legitimate, I think, to wonder why such a figure has such a small place in the accepted "history." I think the music itself might be part of it, but other issues surely come into play.
 

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well, he died way too young; he was truly transformative because he was one of the first African American musicians to get organized, to say, let's get our own work and control the conditions. If he had not been murdered the whole early history of American song might have been much different. There's no telling how Europe would have evolved; he might even have moved away from jazz, as there was a whole other school of African American thought which basically said, "let us elevate the race," and vernacular music was not necessarily the route they would have picked.
 
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