James Reese Europe (1880–1919), sometimes known as Jim Europe, 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. Eubie Blake called him the "Martin Luther King of music".
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. Europes' group was all the rage in France. Playing a pre-jazz ragtime syncopated style that was acclaimed as exciting and new.
The band included several Puerto Rican musicians that would later be key players in the development of Latin music in New York.
The Harlem Hellfighters would serve 191 days in combat, longer than any other U.S. unit. The men earned 170 French Croix de Guerres for bravery. One of their commanding officers, Col. Benjamin O. Davis Sr., would become the Army's first African American generals in 1940.
When they returned home they lead the parade down Broadway with Mr. Bo Jangles leading the parade.
Truly one of the founding Fathers of Jazz, Europes' life was inspirational but tragically cut short. James Reese Europe life is worthy of study and he was a Great American Composer.
Set of 6 Great American Composers, a series of contemporary paintings by Al Moretti of some of the earliest American Composers of note. Stephen Foster, Scott Joplin, John Philip Sousa, Charles Tomlinson Griffes, James Reese Europe