Eddie Rosner: the ‘white Louis Armstrong’

Adolph Ignatievich Rosner, known professionally as Ady Rosner or Eddie Rosner, was born on May 26, 1910, in Berlin, Germany, to a Polish-Jewish family. At six years old, Rosner was sent to Stern’s Musical Conservatory in Berlin. There, he studied classical music, but soon became drawn to the jazz scene by the age of 15. In 1920, Rosner left the conservatory as a violinist and entered the High School of Music in Berlin.

During the 1920s, Rosner switched to playing trumpet. He adopted the name “Eddie” and played with other Polish musicians in Marek Weber‘s orchestra. Rosner combined his classical music education with jazz. After playing with several bands in Berlin, he joined The Syncopators led by Stephan Weintraub, and toured western Europe. In the 1930s, he was in Eddie Rosner and The Syncopators. By 1934 he had gained acclaim for his trumpet playing and ability to play two trumpets at once.

During the 1930s, Rosner worked with The Syncopators on the transatlantic steamer New York. He entertained passengers sailing between Hamburg and American seaports. By that time, he had made several recordings with the band and planned on starting a career in America. He corresponded with American drummer Gene Krupa. Rosner was considered one of the best jazz trumpeters in Europe and was compared to American trumpeter Louis Armstrong.

In 1939, Rosner settled in Belostok and formed the Belostok Jazz big band, which became the State Jazz of the Belorussian Republic of the USSR. Over the next two years, he and his band toured in Belarus and the Soviet Union. He was as well received in the USSR as he had been in Europe. Before and during the Nazi occupation of the USSR, his performances were often broadcast over the national radio of the Soviet Union, and several records were released and distributed across the USSR. Stalin called Rosner to say he enjoyed his performance. Rosner was made the leader of the Soviet State Jazz Orchestra. He and his band recorded versions of Caravan and St. Louis Blues.

As stated in the episode, after the end of the Second World War, Rosner was no longer liked by Josef Stalin (who now saw Rosner’s success and popularity as a threat to political stability), and consequently, Rosner spent the next decade imprisoned in a gulag prison. Here, he often preformed for the prisoners, and did not give up on his passion for jazz.

After gaining freedom in the 1950s, Rosner established a Russian big band that toured the Soviet Union and made several recordings between 1954 and 1971. While the band received publicity through films and concerts, the Soviet press and critics were instructed to “avoid mentioning him in publications and critical works.” Authorities restricted him from performing in major concert halls in the Soviet Union.

By the early 1970s, Rosner suffered from poor health. Sensing that the end was near, he applied to Soviet authorities for permission to immigrate to his birthplace and was allowed to return to Berlin in 1973. He did not earn any royalties in the Soviet Union, and passed away in poverty three years later.


Caravan (1936)

Caravan is an American jazz standard that was originally composed by Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington, and first performed by Ellington in 1936. The song was taken at a slow tempo, emphasizing the subtle shadings of the leader’s arrangement. Numerous recordings of Caravan by Ellington exist because it essentially “remained in his playbook for the rest of his career, with the potential of being performed during any given concert.” The piece found favor right away with other jazz musicians, with broadcasts or recordings by Benny Goodman, Bunny Berrigan, Charlie Barnet and many others. Rosner was no exception.

References:

Mike Zwerin. “Eddie Rosner Revival Fills In Gaps in the Soviet Memory: First Ghost Band in Russia” Jan. 30, 2002. https://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/30/style/IHT-eddie-rosner-revival-fills-in-gaps-in-the-soviet-memory-first-ghost.html.