1919

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When we last heard from band leader James Reece Europe in 1914, he was taking his all-black orchestra to Carnegie Hall and accompanying Irene and Vernon Castle as they performed the foxtrot to high society. Of course, since 1914, a lot has changed. Jazz has swept ratime – even the hottest varieties of it – from the scene, and America has been to war in Europe. It might be natural to assume that the first of these is more important to Jim’s career, but not so.

As the USA entered the war in 1917, Jim joined his friend Noble Sissle in enlisting in the still segregated US Army, and were assigned to the legendary 269th Infantary Regiment, otherwise known as the “Harlem Hellfighters” – the first black unit sent to France. On arrival they were assigned to the French army out of fear that white American soldiers would refuse to fight alongside them, and a racist pamphlet titled “Secret Information Concerning Black American Troops” was distributed to their new commanding officers. For the most part, the French treated the 269th as they would any other regiment – the country was in such dire straits that any manpower was welcome – and given the chance to show their worth, the “Hellfighters” earned their nickname in a series of famous battles, with Private Henry Johnson, a former New York railway porter, becoming the first American to win the Croix de Guerre.

Europe and Sissle were not directly involved in combat, however – they were instead quickly enlisted in the regimental band, and as director Europe found the freshest talent available. As well as Sissle (later a major songwriter) the band featured Herb Flemming (later to play with Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Tommy Dorsey) and Russell Smith (a lead trumpet player in the big band ers). Not only had the new sounds of jazz not been heard in Europe before, they were also still a novelty to the American troops, and within a year the band had travelled over 2000 miles throughout France, sowing the seeds of jazz in French, American and even British audiences. For all three audiences their sound seems to have been a complete revelation. One journalist wrote;

“the sound might be called liquefied harmony. It runs and ripples, then has a sort of choking sensation; next it takes on the musical color of Niagara Falls at a distance, and subsides to a trout brook nearby. The brassiness of the horn is changed, and there is sort of throbbing, nasal effect, half moan, half hallelujah.”

The tour continued for months after the end of the war, and the group only returned to the USA in February 1919. As their ship arrived they were perhaps surprised to find more than a million people had lined the streets of New York in order to see their victory parade. On seeing the reception they received, Europe was reported to say

“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.”

The next month he took his band to the studio to make their first recordings in half a decade – a collection of self-penned numbers and new jazz standards which would give the first hints of what they were capable of. Noble Sissle featured on vocal for several pieces.

On the night of May 9th, 1919, Europe performed for the final time, in a concert in Boston’s Mechanics Hall. Feeling ill with a heavy cold, he grew frustrated with the behavior of two of his drummers, and in the intermission he went to the wings to reprimand them. One drummer, Herbert Wright, did not take to being lectured in this way, and in a fit of anger lunged for Europe’s neck with a pen knife. The wound seemed to be only superficial, nevertheless Europe told the band to continue without him and went to the hospital, reassuring everyone that “I’ll get along alright.” The bleeding, however, could not be stopped, and he died hours later, at the age of 39.

Lieutenant James Reece Europe was buried in Arlington National Cemetary in Washingon. The funeral march, the first public memorial for a black person in New York, followed part of the same route followed by the victory parade three months before. Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake completed the tour, before sending the band their seperate ways to change the sound of American music forever.

Tracks

0:00:17 Edison Records – Fanfare
0:00:36 Original Dixieland Jazz Band – Ostrich Walk
0:03:48 Lieut. Jim Europe’s 369th U. S. Infantry “Hell Fighters” Band – Memphis Blues
0:06:19 Joseph C Smith’s Orchestra – Yellow Dog Blues
0:08:44 Al Bernard – Hesitation Blues
0:12:20 Bert Williams – Elder Eatmore’s Sermon On Generosity
0:12:48 Bert Williams – Everybody Wants A Key To My Cellar
0:15:38 Vernon Dalhart – The Alcoholic Blues
0:17:17 Esther Walker – Sahara We’ll Soon Be Dry Like You
0:20:31 Marika Papagika – Hrissaido
0:23:23 Maria Smyrnea – The Grass Widow
0:24:44 Marika Papagika – Kremete I Kapota
0:28:35 Boston Symphony Orchestra – Lohengrin Prelude Act 3
0:30:02 Amilita Galli-Curci – Traviata Sempre Libera
0:32:17 Florence Cole-Talbert – Villanelle
0:34:28 R. Nathaniel Dett – Barcarolle
0:37:11 Edward H. S. Boatner – Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
0:39:43 George Gershwin – Whispering
0:42:50 Art Hickman’s Orchestra – Rose Room
0:46:08 Yerkes’ Happy Six – Karavan
0:48:15 Milo Rega’s Dance Orchestra – Peggy
0:51:17 Rudy Wiedoeft’s Master Saxophone Sextet – Saxophobia
0:53:48 Columbia Saxophone Sextette – Chong (He Come From Hong Kong)
0:55:35 Thomas Edison – Mr. Edison’s Christmas Greetings
0:55:49 Patrick J. Touhey – Drowsy Maggie
0:56:56 Ada Jones and Len Spencer – How Sandy Proposed
0:57:04 Irving Kaufmann – You’d Be Surprised
0:58:30 Waldorf Astoria Dance Orchestra – Taxi
1:00:24 Jean Louis Pisuisse – Ma Femme Et Ma Pipe
1:01:53 Maurice Chevalier – On The Level You’re A Little Devil
1:03:14 George Hamilton Green Novelty Orchestra – Moonlight Waltz
1:06:45 Paul Biese and his Novelty Orchestra – Mystery!
1:08:11 Ford Dabney’s Band – Camp Meeting Blues
1:10:23 Original Dixieland Jazz Band – Tiger Rag
1:13:29 Orquesta De Antonio Romeu – Donde Andaba Anoche!
1:15:14 Carmen Flores – Evaristo Agachaté Que Te Han Visto
1:16:19 Orquesta Felix Gonzalez – Carmelina
1:17:49 Blanquita Suárez – La Cigarrera
1:19:23 Toots Paka’s Hawaiians – Pua O’ Hula
1:21:29 Harry T. Burleigh – Go Down Moses
1:22:19 Anatoli Lunacharsky – On People’s Education (Excerpt 1)
1:22:28 Abe Schwartz and his Orchestra – Bessarabia Hangi
1:24:27 Anatoli Lunacharsky – On People’s Education (Excerpt 2)
1:24:38 Pinchos Jassinowsky – K’dusho (Na’artizkho)
1:25:07 Sergei Rachmaninoff – Prelude In C Sharp Minor
1:27:20 Clarence Cameron White – Lament
1:28:55 Master Thomas Criddle – That Old Fashioned Mother of Mine
1:31:56 Edward Avis and Howard R Garis – Bird Calls with Story Part 2
1:32:19 George Formby Sr – One Of The Boys
1:35:03 Henry Burr – I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles
1:37:49 Louisiana Five – Virginia Blues
1:39:40 Wilbur C. Sweatman’s Original Jazz Band – Kansas City Blues
1:42:44 Lieut. Jim Europe’s 369th U. S. Infantry “Hell Fighters” Band – That Moaning Trombone

Elsewhere in 1919

January 1 - HMY Iolaire sinks off the coast of the Hebrides, 201 people, mostly servicemen returning home to Lewis and Harris, are killed.

January 1 – HMY Iolaire sinks off the coast of the Hebrides, 201 people, mostly servicemen returning home to Lewis and Harris, are killed.

January 1 - The Czechoslovak Legions occupy the Pressburg (now Bratislava), enforcing its incorporation into the new republic of Czechoslovakia.

January 1 – The Czechoslovak Legions occupy the Pressburg (now Bratislava), enforcing its incorporation into the new republic of Czechoslovakia.

January 3 – The Faisal–Weizmann Agreement is signed by Emir Faisal and Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, for Arab–Jewish cooperation in the development of Jewish and Palestinann homelands

January 3 – The Faisal–Weizmann Agreement is signed by Emir Faisal and Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, for Arab–Jewish cooperation in the development of Jewish and Palestinann homelands

January 5 - A communist uprising is attempted by the Spartacist League in Berlin

January 5 – A communist uprising is attempted by the Spartacist League in Berlin

January 5 - The German Workers' Party, predecessor of the Nazi Party, is formed by the merger of The Committee of Independent Workmen with The Political Workers' Circle.

January 5 – The German Workers’ Party, predecessor of the Nazi Party, is formed by the merger of The Committee of Independent Workmen with The Political Workers’ Circle.

January 6 – Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, dies in his sleep at the age of 60

January 6 – Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, dies in his sleep at the age of 60

January 7 - The Tragic Week in Argentina, an anarchist uprising in Buenos Aires, begins, it is later suppressed by official forces

January 7 – The Tragic Week in Argentina, an anarchist uprising in Buenos Aires, begins, it is later suppressed by official forces

January 15 - A wave of molasses released from an exploding storage tank sweeps through Boston, Massachusetts, killing 33 and injuring 150.

January 15 – A wave of molasses released from an exploding storage tank sweeps through Boston, Massachusetts, killing 33 and injuring 150.

January 15 - Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht are murdered, following the Spartacist uprising.

January 15 – Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht are murdered, following the Spartacist uprising.

January 16 - The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, authorizing Prohibition, is ratified.

January 16 – The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, authorizing Prohibition, is ratified.

January 18 - The Paris Peace Conference opens in France, with delegates from 27 nations attending for meetings at the Palace of Versailles.

January 18 – The Paris Peace Conference opens in France, with delegates from 27 nations attending for meetings at the Palace of Versailles.

January 31 – Battle of George Square - The British Army is called in to deal with riots, during negotiations over working hours in Glasgow, Scotland.

January 31 – Battle of George Square – The British Army is called in to deal with riots, during negotiations over working hours in Glasgow, Scotland.

February 5 - United Artists (UA) is incorporated by D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.

February 5 – United Artists (UA) is incorporated by D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.

Friedrich Ebert

February 11 – Friedrich Ebert is elected the first President of Germany (Reichspräsident), by the Weimar National Assembly.

February 14 – The Polish–Soviet War begins, with the Battle of Bereza Kartuska.

February 14 – The Polish–Soviet War begins, with the Battle of Bereza Kartuska.

February 24 - Four days after supressing an uprising, the Estonian government celebrate their first independence day

February 24 – Four days after supressing an uprising, the Estonian government celebrate their first independence day

March 1 – The March 1st Movement against Japanese colonial rule in Korea is formed.

March 1 – The March 1st Movement against Japanese colonial rule in Korea is formed.

April 5 – The Pinsk massacre in Poland - 35 Jews are killed without trial, after being accused of Bolshevism.

April 5 – The Pinsk massacre in Poland – 35 Jews are killed without trial, after being accused of Bolshevism.

April 10 – Mexican Revolution leader Emiliano Zapata is ambushed and shot dead in Morelos.

April 10 – Mexican Revolution leader Emiliano Zapata is ambushed and shot dead in Morelos.

April 13 - The Amritsar Massacre - British and Gurkha troops massacre 379 Sikhs at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, in the Punjab.

April 13 – The Amritsar Massacre – British and Gurkha troops massacre 379 Sikhs at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, in the Punjab.

May 4 - The League of Red Cross Societies is formed in Paris.

May 4 – The League of Red Cross Societies is formed in Paris.

May 4 - The May Fourth Movement erupts in China as a result of the decision at the Paris Peace Conference to transfer former German concessions in Jiaozhou Bay to Japan.

May 4 – The May Fourth Movement erupts in China as a result of the decision at the Paris Peace Conference to transfer former German concessions in Jiaozhou Bay to Japan rather than return sovereign authority to China.

May 6 – The Third Anglo-Afghan War begins.

May 6 – The Third Anglo-Afghan War begins – after a stalemate, Britain concede and settle on pre-war boundaries.

May 19 - Mustafa Kemal Atatürk lands at Samsun on the Anatolian Black Sea coast, marking the start of the Turkish War of Independence.

May 19 – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk lands at Samsun on the Anatolian Black Sea coast, marking the start of the Turkish War of Independence.

June 21 - Admiral Ludwig von Reuter scuttles the German fleet interned at Scapa Flow, Scotland

June 21 – Admiral Ludwig von Reuter scuttles the German fleet interned at Scapa Flow, Scotland

June 25 – In the Russian Civil War, The White Volunteer Army capture Kharkiv, while Red Army forces take Perm.

June 25 – In the Russian Civil War, The White Volunteer Army capture Kharkiv, while Red Army forces take Perm.

June 28 - The Treaty of Versailles is signed, formally ending World War I.

June 28 – The Treaty of Versailles is signed, formally ending World War I.

July 20 – The Red Army captures the city of Ekaterinburg in the Ural mountains from the White rule of Admiral Alexander Kolchak.

July 20 – The Red Army captures the city of Ekaterinburg in the Ural mountains from the White rule of Admiral Alexander Kolchak.

July 21 – The dirigible Wingfoot Air Express catches fire over downtown Chicago. Two passengers, one aircrewman and ten people on the ground are killed.

July 21 – The dirigible Wingfoot Air Express catches fire over downtown Chicago. Two passengers, one aircrewman and ten people on the ground are killed.

July 27 – The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 begins when a white man throws stones at a group of four black teens on a raft.

July 27 – The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 begins when a white man throws stones at a group of four black teens on a raft.

August 4 – The Romanian army occupies Budapest.

August 4 – The Romanian army occupies Budapest.

September 10 – The Treaty of Saint-Germain is signed, ending World War I with Austria-Hungary and declaring that the latter's empire is to be dissolved

September 10 – The Treaty of Saint-Germain is signed, ending World War I with Austria-Hungary and declaring that the latter’s empire is to be dissolved

September 12 – Gabriele D'Annunzio, with his entourage, marches into Fiume and convinces Italian troops to join him.

September 12 – Gabriele D’Annunzio, with his entourage, marches into Fiume and convinces Italian troops to join him.

October 2 – President of the United States Woodrow Wilson suffers a serious stroke, rendering him an invalid for the remainder of his life.

October 2 – President of the United States Woodrow Wilson suffers a serious stroke, rendering him an invalid for the remainder of his life.

November 9 – Felix the Cat debuts in Feline Follies.

November 9 – Felix the Cat debuts in Feline Follies.

November 11 - In The Russian Civil War, The Northwestern Army of General Nikolai Yudenich retreats to Estonia and is disarmed.

November 11 – In The Russian Civil War, The Northwestern Army of General Nikolai Yudenich retreats to Estonia and is disarmed.

November 30 – Health officials declare the global 'Spanish' flu pandemic has ceased.

November 30 – Health officials declare the global ‘Spanish’ flu pandemic has ceased.

Nancy Astor

December 1 – American-born Nancy Astor becomes the first woman to take her seat in the UK House of Commons, having become the second to be elected on November 28.

December 4 – The French Opera House in New Orleans, Louisiana is destroyed by fire.

December 4 – The French Opera House in New Orleans, Louisiana is destroyed by fire.

December 21 – Following the first 'Red Scare', The United States deports 249 people, including Emma Goldman, to Russia on the USAT Buford.

December 21 – Following the first ‘Red Scare’, The United States deports 249 people, including Emma Goldman, to Russia on the USAT Buford.

December 26 – American baseball player Babe Ruth is traded by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees for $125,000, the largest sum ever paid for a player at this time, a deal made public at t

December 26 – American baseball player Babe Ruth is traded by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees for $125,000, the largest sum ever paid for a player at this time.