On November 15, 2017, The French-American Cultural Foundation hosted Jazz Meets France at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium. The concert celebrated the lives and music of the WWI jazzmen-soldiers, also known as the Harlem Hell Fighters.
The evening was launched with a video welcome from the Concert’s Honorary Chairman, Wynton Marsalis, followed by Ambassador Louise Oliver. Dr. David Shorten, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, served as the Master of Ceremonies, telling the story of WWI and the contributions of the African-American troops who were sent to France to fight, bringing with them America’s unique sounds of jazz.
The evening’s music was performed by the US Air Force’s Airmen of Note, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the Michael Weiss Trio Plus One, and Christian Escoudé. They brought the early sounds of jazz developed by the Harlem Hell Fighter’s band leader, James Reese Europe, as well as the jazz standards they created to an appreciative audience. Gene Alexander Peters also brought his rare collection of WWI and James Reese Europe memorabilia to help educate a new generation about the Harlem Hell Fighters and the importance they played in the development of jazz and in connection with the advancement of civil rights in the US.