First Lieutenant James Reese Europe leading the military band of the 369th Regiment Infantry, 1918. Performing for patients at an American Red Cross Hospital in Paris, France. National Archives/Library of Congress.

Lieutenant James Reese Europe, 1917. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture/New York Public Library.

Rafael and Jesus Hernández of the 369th Regiment, 1919. Center for Puerto Rican Studies/Hunter College.

On Patrol in No Man’s Land sheet music cover, 1919. Music for the Harlem Hell Fighters’ Band composed by James Reese Europe, Noble Sissle, and Eubie Blake. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture/New York Public Library.

Don Rafael Hernández and his Big Band Orchestra in New York City. Center for Puerto Rican Studies/Hunter College.

Curated by Loren Schoenberg, Senior Scholar at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem

James Reese Europe (b. 1881–d. 1919) was a groundbreaking New York City-based composer and bandleader—a key figure in developing jazz and sharing that music with audiences around the world. In his compositions and arrangements, he mined his cultural background to celebrate African rhythms and musical styles in American music. He drew from the roots of ragtime, spirituals, and the blues and wove them into original music performed at social dances, in concerts by his Clef Club Orchestra, and by the Harlem Hell Fighters' 369th Regimental Band, which he organized during World War I and led overseas.

Yet, an important part of this music history, and James Reese Europe’s biography, is often untold—the musician’s close connection to Latin jazz. In assembling the 369th Regimental Band, Europe went as far as Puerto Rico to recruit band members, and in doing so, created an opportunity for an expanded fusion of musical styles and cultural influences. The Afro-Caribbean sounds that these musicians brought to the band shaped Europe’s compositions and jazz music at large, their influence extending far beyond the wartime ensemble. Many of the Puerto Rican musicians who played in Europe’s band moved to New York City after the war—joining the music scene in Harlem, San Juan Hill, and surrounding neighborhoods—and performing, composing, and recording in the decades that followed.

Join us for a conversation with leading artists and scholars about the life and impact of James Reese Europe and his Harlem Hell Fighters’ band—who fundamentally shaped jazz and the music industry in ways that still resound today.

Moderator:

  • Loren Schoenberg (Founding Director and Senior Scholar, National Jazz Museum in Harlem)

Panelists:

  • Michael Dinwiddie (Professor of Cultural Studies, New York University)
  • Elena Martínez (Co-Artistic Director, Bronx Music Heritage Center)
  • Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés (Associate Provost for Community Engagement, The City College of New York)

This conversation will include a live musical performance by a jazz trio led by composer and pianist Esteban Castro. Complimentary wine will be served before and after the event.

Run time: Approximately 1 hour 15 minutes

 
 

If you have any questions about this event, please contact Guest Experience at 212-875-5456 or [email protected].

 

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May 14 at 7:00 pm

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Celebrating the Music of James P. Johnson, Benny Carter, and Thelonious Monk (1900–1950)

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Explore the evolution of jazz in San Juan Hill through a live musical performance.

Support Our Artistic Community

Lincoln Center is committed to the power of the arts and the important role it plays in our lives. Give today to join our mission and help champion the future of Lincoln Center.

A contribution of any size makes a big impact!