Eddie (Adolph) Rosner - biography
Adolph Ignatievich Rosner, also known as Eddie Rosner (May 26, 1910 in Berlin – August 8, 1976 in West Berlin) was a Polish and Soviet Jazz musician called "The White Louis Armstrong" or "Polish Louis Armstrong" in different sources. This is in part because of his rendition of the St. Louis blues. He also served as a prisoner in the Gulag prison camp in the former Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin.
He was born into a Polish Jewish family in Berlin. In 1916, a child of six, he was taken to Stern's Musical Conservatory in Berlin. He initially studied classical music, but became drawn to jazz by the age of fifteen. In 1920 he left the conservatory as a violinist with excellent marks and entered the High School of Music in Berlin, on the Kantstrasse, near the Opera. During the 1920s he caught the jazz bug and switched to trumpet. At that time he adopted the name "Eddie" and played with other Polish musicians in Marek Weber's orchestra.
Eddie Rosner made a creative fusion of his classical music education with the newest beat of jazz. After playing with several bands in Berlin, he joined "The Syncopators", led by Stephan Weintraub, and toured around Western Europe. In the 1930s Eddie Rosner and "The Syncopators" By 1934 he had gained acclaim for his trumpet playing and ability to play two trumpets at once. In his tour of Europe in the 1930s the French celebrated his work and he was featured in many magazines.
During the 1930s Eddie Rosner worked with "The Syncopators" at the "New York" transatlantic steamer. There Eddie Rosner entertained the passengers cruising between Hamburg and various American seaports. By that time, Rosner had made several recordings of his trumpet playing with the band, and planned on starting a new career in America. For that matter he was involved in a correspondence with the famous American bandleader and drummer Gene Krupa. At that time, Eddie Rosner was considered the best jazz trumpeter in Europe and was compared to the American trumpeter Louis Armstrong.
Escape from the Nazis
"In 1939, it didn't help being a Jew playing Negro music, even if your name is Adolf," joked Eddie Rosner. He left Nazi Germany for Poland. In 1939, in Warsaw, he married Ruth Kaminska, the daughter of Polish actress Ida Kaminska. His career and life could have been in jeopardy after the invasion of Poland by the Nazi Germans on September 1, 1939, but he soon fled occupied Poland and escaped from the Nazis on the outbreak of the Second World War. In September 1939, Eddie Rosner and a group of musicians from his band crossed the newly established German-Soviet border and came to the city of Białystok in what was then the western part of Belarus, which became part of the Soviet Union. Eddie Rosner was initially welcomed by the Soviet authorities and was allowed to perform in the Soviet Union which at that time embraced the music of jazz.
Initial success in the USSR
In 1939 Eddie Rosner settled in Belostok and formed the "Belostok Jazz", a big band, which soon became the State Jazz of the Belorussian Republic of the USSR. During the following two years, Rosner and his jazz band toured all over Belarus, and also toured around the Soviet Union, having several performances in Moscow ans other big cities. Eddie Rosner initially achieved an equally glowing reception in the USSR as he had in Europe. Before and during the Nazi occupation of the USSR in the Second World War Rosner's performances were often broadcast over the national radio of the Soviet Union, and several records were released and distributed across the USSR. Joseph Stalin even called Rosner to say he enjoyed his performance for him. This led to Rosner being made the leader of the Soviet State Jazz Orchestra for a time. He and his band recorded such hits as "Caravan" and "St. Louis Blues" among many other popular themes.
After the war everything changed. By 1946 Stalin became increasingly hostile to Jewish people and also foreigners. In that year the Soviet censorship had all foreign art and music banned, even the leading Russian musicians, like Sergey Prokofiev and Dmitry Shostakovich were censored, and Rosner fell into disfavor and planned to emigrate from the Soviet Union. He was arrested by the Soviet KGB in the city of Lvov in the Ukraine, and then he was sent to a Gulag prison camp in Siberia on false charges of "anti-Soviet" treason with a ten-year sentence. For the next eight years Rosner continued to perform in the Gulag camp near Magadan, and was allowed to use music, or be used, to lift the spirits of other prisoners of the Soviet Gulag. He was released in May 1954, more than a year after Stalin's death.
In the mid 1950s, Eddie Rosner founded and led the one of most famous Russian big bands. His band was touring about the Soviet Union and made several recordings from 1954 until 1971. In 1956 Rosner and his jazz band were filmed in the popular Soviet comedy The Carnival Night, gaining further popularity among the movie fans. However, the Soviet official press and critics were instructed to avoid mentioning Eddie Rosner in publications and critical works, authorities also restricted him from performances in major concert halls of the former Soviet Union. During the 1960s Rosner and his jazz band were gradually pushed into obscurity, albeit the intellectuals and advanced public were aware of Rosner's musicianship and artistry, and he remained popular among jazz fans for a while.
By the early 1970s Rosner suffered from poor health. Sensing that the end is near, he applied to the Soviet authorities for permission to immigrate to his birthplace, and was allowed to return to his native Berlin in 1973. He did not earn any royalties in the Soviet Union, and died in poverty three years later. Although during the war he had gained widespread popularity with many of the Allied troops, not just the Soviets, he has since fallen into near obscurity in the West. However, in 1999, a documentary on him was released, leading to something of a revival of interest.