Sunday, March 1, 2009

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

        That's probably the Number One question writers get asked.  The answer is, "Everywhere, all the time." 
        Last night I went to a concert at Kenyon Hall in West Seattle, where the terrific Cornucopia Concert Band played selections in honor of Black History Month.  There were rags, blues, popular melodies, show tunes. 
        One of the most prominent names from the list of musicians represented in the concert was James Reese Europe.  A century ago, he was composer, bandleader, arranger, promoter, labor organizer, one of the most important New York musical personalities of the time.  He was a key figure in getting the dance craze of the 'twenties going, composing tunes for headline dancers Irene and Vernon Castle.  He took ragtime and early jazz to France, thereby setting the stage for that country to be a post-war hotbed of jazz and related music.
         Unfortunately, Europe died far too young.  In May, 1919, an argument with his drummer led to the drummer's stabbing the conductor to death.  What might have been behind this murder?  Was it simply a case of an unstable percussionist being pushed just a little too far by his boss?  Or was there more?  There's a relatively-new book out, A Life in Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe.  My daughter and son-in-law gave me a copy for Christmas, and it's now near the top of my TBR pile.  I think I'll move it up to Number One.  There might be a story there.

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