American soldier and jazzman (1881-1919). Born in Mobile, Alabama to a pair of musicians, which seems to have sealed his future fate. The family moved to Washington, DC, when James was ten years old, and he studied violin with Enrico Herlei, the assistant director of the United States Marine Corps Band. At 14, he entered a music-writing contest and placed second, behind his sister Mary. In 1905, he was living in New York City, playing in clubs, and writing for a group called the Memphis Students. Years later, George Gershwin remembered that, when he was just seven years old, he used to sit on the curb outside a Harlem nightclub and listen to Europe play piano.

In 1910, Europe founded the Clef Club, a musicians' union/fraternal organization for African-Americans. The Club owned a building in New York that served both as a booking office for musicians seeking jobs and as a concert hall for the club's symphony orchestra, conducted by Europe. The Clef Club Orchestra employed up to 150 musicians, though it was said that not all the musicians on stage could actually play instruments--some even had fake instruments to make sure they wouldn't mess up the performance for the real musicians. The Orchestra was very popular--they played Carnegie Hall three times in three years, and the musicians were able to get paying gigs in New York, London, Paris, and elsewhere around the world.

While working with the Clef Club, Europe also worked as the band leader for a pair of famous dancers, Vernon and Irene Castle. While with the Castles, Europe helped popularize the foxtrot and was one of the first band leaders to use the saxophone, originally a novelty instrument, as an important part of a jazz ensemble.

Europe enlisted in the army at the start of World War I, and, after passing the officer's exam, was asked by his commander to form a military band as part of his combat unit, which was composed solely of blacks. When the unit arrived in France on January 1, 1918, it was the first African-American combat unit ever in France and was soon nicknamed the Hellfighters by the French for their bravery. The band performed to popular acclaim for troops and citizens all over France. Europe wrote music throughout the war, composing songs like "On Patrol in No Man's Land". For most French people, it was their first exposure to jazz.

Beginning in August 1918, Europe and his band performed in Paris for eight weeks. They performed by themselves and with a number of French, British, and Italian marching bands. Many of the European musicians believed the Americans were playing tricked-out instruments--they saw no way that a normal instrument could play the sounds that Europe and his band played.

Europe and his band returned to New York on February 12, 1919. They were met with parades, medals, and enthusiastic praise from blacks and whites alike. They began a highly-successful tour of the country, and Europe began plans for a future career as a full-time jazz musician. However, during the intermission of the band's final concert of the tour in Boston on May 9, 1919, Europe was stabbed to death by a fellow musician, Herbert Wright, who was upset with Europe's strict direction.

Europe was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. Years later, Eubie Blake described him as "the Martin Luther King of music."

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