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

Saturday, December 8, 2018 8:00 PM

Jazz The Human Journey

Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran presents the U.S. premiere of his tribute to early ragtime musician & WWI veteran James Reese Europe. Through new music and stunning visuals, including a special film component directed by John Akomfrah (The March) with cinematography by Oscar®-nominated Bradford Young (Selma, Arrival), Moran will explore how Europe’s achievements continue to affect today’s culture and sound.

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"My country called me and I must answer. If I live to come back, I will startle the world with my music."—James Reese Europe

Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran presents the U.S. premiere of The Absence of Ruin, his salute to James Reese Europe, the early African American ragtime musician and first black bandleader who created an international demand for jazz and served as an inspiration to generations of musicians to follow.

A groundbreaking artist and composer, Europe played a pivotal role in the recruitment efforts during the First World War, where his songs became anthems for the young men who fought alongside him. Often called the “Jazz King,” his sound was undeniably one of the most innovative sonic ideas at the time.

Through new arrangements and stunning visual media, including a special film component directed by John Akomfrah (The March) with cinematography by Oscar®-nominated Bradford Young (Selma, Arrival), Moran will explore Europe’s deep musical catalogue and how his achievements continue to affect today’s culture and sound.


For further reading on this critically acclaimed musical experience, visit jasonmoranharlemhellfighters.com


Free events!

Before The Absence of Ruin:
Join Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran and historian Gene Alexander Peters for a riveting discussion of early African American ragtime musician James Reese Europe. A groundbreaking artist and composer, Europe is dubbed the “King of Jazz” and is credited with creating the international demand for jazz we see today.

Gene Alexander Peters is an educator, cultural history consultant, and collector of rare African American artifacts. Using his acclaimed collection—“THE GENE ALEXANDER PETERS COLLECTION OF RARE & HISTORIC AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTIFACTS”—he is also the founder and president of SANKOFA Exhibit Consultants, an educational resource company which specializes in providing museum exhibitions and consultative services documenting the history of the African American experience. His collection has been exhibited nationally at many  landmark educational institutions and museums, including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, NY and the Smithsonian Museum here in Washington, DC.

Thursday, December 6 at 7:30 p.m.:
Join Jason Moran at Georgetown University as he hosts a free event and in-depth discussion about James Reese Europe’s life, music, and legacy. in Georgetown University's Davis Performing Arts Center.


This event is part of The Human Journey,collaboration between the Kennedy Center, National Geographic Society, and the National Gallery of Art. The Human Journey invites audiences to investigate the powerful experiences of migration, exploration, identity, and resilience through the lenses of the performing arts, science, and visual art.