Thursday, March 02, 2006

Tisha St. Clair of Sister Nineties Literary Magazine Believes Jazz Lieutenant Is An Important Tool In Teaching Our Youth About Our Rich Heritage!!!

James Reese Europe Jazz Lieutenant
by R2C2H2
BookSurge, LLC, © 2005
ISBN: 1-4196-0245-4 (paper)
75 pages, $ US paperback

R2C2H2’s book about the life of James Reese Europe was an informative and delightful read. Not only was he the author, but also the brilliant illustrator. R2C2H2 used his drawings to punctuate the story of Europe’s life. Especially haunting was the picture entitled “Welcome to Spartanburg, South Carolina!!!” R2C2H2’s words told of the harsh treatment of Europe and his band, but the picture truly shows the ugliness of racism, prejudice and segregation. R2C2H2 captures the loathing and hate in the eyes of the white southerners.

R2C2H2 includes many of the ground-breaking achievements of James Reese Europe, and the composers and musicians that benefited from his hard work. One of Europe’s crowning achievements, prior to World War I, was creation The Clef Club, the first black musician’s union and booking agency. This agency was responsible for getting black musicians the same or sometimes better pay than their white counter-parts, and ensuring they would be treated as professionals rather than traveling minstrels. During WWI Europe served as the commanding officer of the 15th Regiment Band. The band was well received in France. Europe and his men also became fierce soldiers, despite a lack of training from the United States Army.

They were awarded numerous medals from the French government during the war.

Some of Europe’s other achievements included working with Eubie Blake, Vernon and Irene Castle; performing at Carnegie Hall; establishing a music school for aspiring black musicians; and re-establishing the black musical theater art form. I really don’t want to tell you much more, because you really need to read all about it yourself.

Through this book, R2C2H2 introduced me to James Reese Europe, a visionary and pioneer. Any primary school aged child could benefit from reading this book. It shows how a person can overcome obstacles to achieve his goals. Any lover of jazz would find this book enlightening and may prompt them to search for some new (old) music for their collection. Any admirer of R2C2H2’s work would be please to have a gallery of his drawings at their fingertips.

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