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Jason Moran: The Harlem Hellfighters

James Reese Europe and the Absence of Ruin

Artwork for Jason Moran: The Harlem Hellfighters

Composer, pianist and visual artist Jason Moran celebrates the legacy of James Reese Europe, the iconic figure that introduced a war-torn France to the sound of Jazz in the closing years of WWI.

On New Year’s Day 1918, James Reese Europe arrived in France with the 369th Infantry Regiment – the ‘Harlem Hellfighters’ military band carried jazz across Europe. Jason Moran pays tribute to this hero of African-American music, leading his trio, The Bandwagon with young musicians chosen by Gary Crosby of Tomorrow's Warriors, and visuals from filmmakers John Akomfrah and Bradford Young.

Moran is one of contemporary jazz’s greatest innovators, communing with the voices of the genre’s past while forging a sound for its future. He has previously devised projects offering insight into key figures in jazz history, Fats Waller and Thelonious Monk. The Harlem Hellfighters takes us back even further, in a multi-dimensional reflection on the man that spread Jazz’s influence worldwide, consolidating its position as a vital American artform.

This performance will begin promptly at the advertised start time and running time will be confirmed closer to the event.

As a guide, please note that events usually finish by 11pm at the latest.

The Harlem Hellfighters is part of the Barbican’s 2018 Season, The Art of Change, which explores how artists respond to, reflect and affect change in the social and political landscape.

James Reese Europe and the Absence of Ruin is co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, Berliner Festspiele / Jazzfest Berlin, Serious and the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, with support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and from the Federal Agency for Civic Education, Germany.

Co-produced Berliner Festspiele / Jazzfest Berlin 

Produced by the Barbican in association with Serious


Part of The Art of Change

Our 2018 season explores how the arts respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.


photo of jason moran

Barbican Meets: Jason Moran


Composer, pianist and visual artist Jason Moran talks to us about early jazz pioneer and African American soldier, James Reese Europe.

harlem firefighters

Watch: A brief history of the Harlem Hellfighters


The Harlem Hellfighters were an African-American infantry unit in WWI who spent more time in combat than any other American unit.

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Long read: Music of conflict

Dr Kate Kennedy looks at a number of solider-composers from World War I, from different backgrounds and nations, exploring the vital importance of music for survival. 

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Listen: ALL RISE - A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller


Listen to acclaimed pianist Jason Moran's album ALL RISE: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller, a collaboration with the vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello that recasts the music of the legendary jazz entertainer Fats Waller as a modern dance party.

Barbican Hall