The Redlands Fourth-of-July Band - Founded in 1981 by Curtiss Allen Sr.


A Man and A Band to Rival Sousa

Other Concert Bands (Symphonic Bands) existed in the United States in the early 20th Century.   One in particular may have rivaled Sousa's Band in size, the quality and musicianship of its personnel and in its touring schedule both in the United States and abroad.  This was the Band led by James Reese Europe.  

James Reese Europe (February 22, 1880 – May 9, 1919), sometimes known as Jim Europe, was an American ragtime and early jazz bandleaderarranger, and composer. He was the leading figure on the African-American music scene of New York City in the 1910s. Eubie Blake called him the "Martin Luther King of music".

In 1910 Europe organized the Clef Club, a society for African Americans in the music industry. In 1912 the club made history when it played a concert at Carnegie Hall for the benefit of the Colored Music Settlement School. The Clef Club Orchestra, while not a jazz band, was the first band to play proto-jazz at Carnegie Hall. It is difficult to overstate the importance of that event in the history of jazz in the United States.  

Europe was known for his outspoken personality and unwillingness to bend to musical conventions, particularly in his insistence on playing his own style of music. He responded to criticism by saying, "We have developed a kind of symphony music that, no matter what else you think, is different and distinctive, and that lends itself to the playing of the peculiar compositions of our race ... My success had come ... from a realization of the advantages of sticking to the music of my own people." And later, "We colored people have our own music that is part of us. It's the product of our souls; it's been created by the sufferings and miseries of our race."

His "Society Orchestra" became nationally famous in 1912, accompanying theater headliner dancers Vernon and Irene Castle. The Castles introduced and popularized the foxtrot—"America learned to dance from the waist down." In 1913 and 1914 he made a series of phonograph records for the Victor Talking Machine Company. These recordings are some of the best examples of the pre-jazz hot ragtime style of the U.S. Northeast of the 1910s. These are some of the most accepted quotes that are in place to protect the idea that the Original Dixieland Jass Band recorded the first jass (spelling later changed) pieces in 1917 for Victor. Unlike Europe's post-War recordings, the Victor recordings were not called nor marketed as "jazz" at the time, and were far from the first recordings of ragtime by African-American musicians.

Military Service
 
During World War I, Europe obtained a commission in the New York Army National Guard, where he fought as a lieutenant with the 369th Infantry Regiment (the "Harlem Hellfighters") when it was assigned to the French Army. 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".

Post-war career
All Of No Man's Land Is Ours, written by Europe and Noble Sissle; recorded in 1919 with vocals by Sissle.
After his return home in February 1919 he stated, "I have come from France more firmly convinced than ever that Negros should write Negro music. We have our own racial feeling and if we try to copy whites we will make bad copies ... We won France by playing music which was ours and not a pale imitation of others, and if we are to develop in America we must develop along our own lines." In 1919 Europe made more recordings for Pathé Records. These include both instrumentals and accompaniments with vocalist Noble Sissle who, with Eubie Blake, would later have great success with their 1921 production of Shuffle Along, which gives us the classic song "I'm Just Wild About Harry". Differing in style from Europe's recordings of a few years earlier, they incorporate bluesblue notes, and early jazz influences (including a rather stiff cover record of the Original Dixieland Jass Band's "Clarinet Marmalade").

Europe was attacked with a penknife by one of his drummers in May of 1919.  He died within a short time.  At the time of his death, he was the best-known African-American bandleader in the United States. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.







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