Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of James Reese Europe, the bandleader of the 369th Harlem Hellfighters. His death is an unpleasant story: after surviving the horrors of the Great War he was stabbed backstage in the dressing room at a show in Boston by the drummer in his band. I have always suspected that post traumatic stress disorder played a role in the incident. I am involved in a project regarding Europe and the 369th which, if it comes to fruition, I will discuss here on the blog. Until then, I won’t say too much. Europe’s premature death in May 1919 meant that he was not to be a fixture in the Twenties jazz scene. He very much would have been the equal of Sidney Bechet, King Oliver and even Louis Armstrong.
Reese grandson, great-grandson and other descendants were on hand at the Lusitania commemoration last Thursday here in New York. I spoke to them during the reception and can attest that they inherited the charisma and magnetism for which James Europe himself was known. Great grandson Rob is today a bluesman and provided the entertainment at the reception.
Enjoy your Sunday.
(top image/Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “On patrol in no man’s land” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1919. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/7f1c4fdc-9934-b830-e040-e00a180619d8)