Date of this Version
White paper, issued 7/29/2016.
James Reese Europe (1880-1919) was an American ragtime and early jazz bandleader, arranger, and composer. He was the leading figure on the African-American music scene of New York City in the 1910s. During World War I, Europe obtained a commission in the New York Army National Guard, where he saw combat as a lieutenant with the 369th Infantry Regiment (the "Harlem Hellfighters"). He went on to direct the regimental band to great acclaim. In February and March 1918, James Reese Europe and his military band travelled over 2,000 miles in France, performing for British, French and American military audiences as well as French civilians. Europe's "Hellfighters" also made their first recordings in France for the Pathé brothers. The first concert included a French march, and the Stars and Stripes Forever as well as syncopated numbers such as "The Memphis Blues", which, according to a later description of the concert by band member Noble Sissle "... started ragtimitis in France".