Adolph Ignatievich Rosner, known as Ady Rosner and also 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 was 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.2
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, 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 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. To help that he corresponded 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. 3 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 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 and 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 to foreigners. In that year Soviet censorship had all foreign art and music banned, and even the leading Russian musicians, like Sergey Prokofiev and Dmitry Shostakovich were censored. 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 as he was trying to cross the border with his family, charged with "anti-Soviet" treason and sent to a Gulag prison camp in Siberia 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 in the Soviet Union. During the 1960s Rosner and his jazz band were gradually pushed into obscurity, although intellectuals and knowledgeable 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 was 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.
In popular culture:
A 1999 documentary, "The Jazzman from the Gulag" ("Le Jazzman Du Goulag") by Pierre-Henry Salfati won the International Emmy Awards, tells the story of Rosner's life.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license