ishmael reed, basquiat, and james reese europe


On Saturday, Eileen and I had lunch with her sister, Nancy, and her husband. Walt. It’s the first time we have eaten out in a year. We ate at the Curragh. It was very windy. So windy, in fact that a couple of the umbrellas were lifted off their stands. The Curragh has expanded its outdoor seating considerably: two or three times more than it used to have. It was a lovely meal and we came home and had home made ice cream and blueberry buckle in the back yard. It was fun to chat with people in person.

I have been neglecting this blog in favor of reading and practicing.

I recently ran across this reading of a new play by Ishmael Reed.

I am a fan of his and it amused me to no end that this play is mostly about Jean-Michel Basquiat. Cool cool.

I heard about this play on the podcast: The Cyborg Jillian Weise and Ishmael Reed in Conversation

Great quote from Reed on this podcast: “Words built the world.”

I also recommend a recent United States of Anxiety podcast called “The Big Bang Theory of Jazz.”  It taught be about a musician who was instrumental in spreading Jazz to Europe around the time of WWI.

The musician’s name is James Reeses Europe.

Introduction - James Reese Europe: Topics in Chronicling America - Research Guides at Library of Congress

I was very interested to learn about this composer. He looks to be instrumental in beginning the love affair between American Jazz musicians and France.

I was keenly disappointed that he does not have an entry in the Groves Dictionary. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Here’s a link to his Wikipedia article. He is important for many reasons. Here’s some quotes from the Wikipedia article regarding his Clef Club Orchestra.

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 – it was 12 years before the Paul Whiteman and George Gershwin concert at Aeolian Hall, and 26 years before Benny Goodman’s famed concert at Carnegie Hall. The Clef Club’s performances played music written solely by Black composers

It’s insane that this guy is not better known. Gunther Schuller mentions him in his seminal book on Early Jazz.

Europe’s genius apparently was to gather large groups of Black musicians together to perform.

He ends up in France leading a band of musicians who were part of the Harlem Hellfighters (the all Black 369th Infantry). He was a lieutenant in this unit which was the  most decorated unit of all WWI American units. Unfortunately all of the decorations came from the French, none from the Americans.

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.[19] 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”. (from the linked Wikipedia article)

Next Sunday afternoon, Eileen and I will drive both of our cars to Elizabeth’s house. She will return driving one of them and stay here to watch the blind Edison the cat. Jeremy is driving their car to visit his father who is quite ill. Eileen and I will have five days of vacation at their home.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to this.

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