Jazz musicians from HBCU bands recreate music of Harlem Hellfighters

They were perhaps the best military band ever and they were also a band of brothers: the 369th Regiment Harlem Hellfighters of World War One.

Now their music is being recreated 100 years later by young jazz musicians from traditionally black colleges across the country on the Intrepid this Memorial Day.

It was a lesson in history as well as music for everyone.

“The Harlem Hellfighters, a New York-based Regiment l, went to Europe and fought for the French because white officers did not want them under their command in America,” Dr. Libby O’Connell, the head of the USWW1 Commission told PIX11. “They fought heroically."

James Reese Europe's grandgather was one of the men involved.

“It started out as ragtime and it progressed into jazz,” he said.

The college musicians performing Monday learned their music separately in different parts of the country and just started rehearsing together a few days ago.

It was impressive to the son and daughter of jazz great Duke Ellington.

“To hear these young talented musicians is phenomenal,” April Ellington told PIX11. “It gives me goosebumps.”

What would Duke Ellington think of this performance?

“He is smiling down from heaven,” Edward Ellington said.

To these young jazz musicians, it was an incredible experience to be playing the music of the Harlem Hellfighters on the Intrepid.

Aspiring professional tuba player 20-year-old Jacob-Paul Tatum of Houston felt this was a dream come true.

“For this opportunity on Memorial Day at something so special honoring the 369th regiment, I feel honored. Tatum said.

It was a perfect Memorial Day for the Turner family, a Coney Island group with musicians and veterans in the family.

“It’s amazing that they practiced on Skype that’s great,” Rolanda Turner told PIX11.

Her daughter agreed.

“I love it. it’s very exciting,” Taniza Turner, 13, said.

 

PIX11’s Ava Pittman contributed to this report.