Jason Moran - The Harlem Hellfighters

North America

Jason Moran: James Reese Europe and the Harlem Hellfighters: The Absence of Ruin

Composer, pianist, and visual artist Jason Moran reflects on the legacy of a hero of black music in a multidisciplinary program entitled, James Reese Europe and the Harlem Hellfighters: The Absence of Ruin. An iconic figure in the evolution of African-American music, ragtime pioneer, and World War I hero, James Reese Europe led a crack military ensemble called the Harlem Hellfighters. In addition to their achievements in combat, Europe and his Hellfighters popularized the new spirit of jazz in a war-torn French nation fascinated with black culture. And that’s only the beginning of their story – their legacy has had an extraordinary impact on African-American music over the past century of cultural and political change.

Moran’s innovative program features his Bandwagon bandmates – bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits – plus a seven-piece horn section, contributions from artist/writer/film director/screenwriter John Akomfrah, and visual materials from acclaimed cinematographer Bradford Young. It’s Moran’s response to Orlando Patterson’s concept of the “absence of ruin” – a musical monument to a vanishing African-American history. Of the US premiere, The Washington Post exclaims, “We already know that Jason Moran is stunningly and profoundly original, even in his treatment of existing material…Knowing it doesn’t prepare one for the stark, sublime beauty of James Reese Europe and the Harlem Hellfighters: The Absence of Ruin.”

James Reese Europe and the Absence of Ruin is co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, Berliner Festspiele / Jazzfest Berlin, Serious and the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, with support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and from the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Germany.