Norfolk jazz trumpeter Peanuts Holland wowed Europe in the mid-20th century. He will finally be honored in his hometown.

Peanuts Holland was born in Norfolk 111 years ago and was quickly transferred to an orphanage in South Carolina.

He later became a prolific jazz trumpeter and spent much of his life in Europe, seeking refuge from American racial discrimination. He never returned to Virginia – at least there is no record of it.

But more than a century later, Holland is finally recognized in his hometown. He’s the inspiration for a free “Jazz in Paris” Monday night event at Old Dominion University.

For Peter Schulman, professor of French and international studies, it is the culmination of years of fascination for the musician.

A native of New York, Schulman lived in France for a long time and was nervous about moving to the unknown town of Norfolk in the 1990s, he said. Around this time in Paris he came across a CD that was a compilation of great jazz cities from around the world. One of the songs was called “Church Street Blues” and was recorded in the 1920s in Norfolk.

He sees this as a good sign and soon learns of another connection between Norfolk and the world of French jazz: a trumpeter named Peanuts Holland who lived for years in Paris.

When Schulman moved to Norfolk in 1996, he became determined to learn as much as possible about Holland.

“It’s kind of a conundrum,” said Schulman. “He was not a flashy and famous jazzman. He really was just a worker, and yet he made his mark. … I knew there was a way to celebrate it.

Holland’s life began in Norfolk in 1910, and he was sent to an orphanage in Charleston. Whether he was truly orphaned or abandoned, Holland had to have someone who cared about him, Schulman said, because the institution he was sent to was renowned.

The Jenkins Orphanage – which still exists under a new name – was established in 1891 by a former Baptist slave minister who wanted to help young African Americans.

The orphanage developed a well-known marching band, which performed during the presidential inaugurations of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and included alumni such as jazz trumpeter William “Cat” Anderson, according to Charleston magazine.

It was there that Holland learned to play the trumpet, fostering his ‘tips and talents and his love for music’.

He has performed with esteemed talents including Lil Hardin Armstrong and Al Sears. In the 1940s, he moved to New York and performed with a group led by white conductor Charlie Barnet, which included many black musicians who rose to prominence, including Lena Horne, Schulman said.

Holland became appreciated for his compositions. He helped uplift the group as a whole, rather than chasing the limelight for himself, Schulman said. His reputation grew, working with others like Coleman Hawkins and Clark Terry, who Schulman said called Holland “one of the greats.”

But it was when he moved to Europe in the late 1940s that Holland found happiness – and greater acceptance with a mixed racial audience, Schulman said.

“He told friends he left the United States because he wanted to be treated like a human being.”

In France in the 1950s and 1960s, jazz musicians were treated with great respect. Holland became a pioneer in what is now one of the hottest Parisian jazz clubs, Aux Trois Mailletz in the Latin Quarter. (“Paris Blues,” the 1961 film starring Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier is set in such a club.)

Holland also traveled to Denmark and Sweden. He married a Swedish woman, had two children and died in Stockholm in 1979, two days before his 69th birthday.

“He had a very happy life and never looked back to America,” Schulman said.

ODU’s “Jazz in Paris” event will not be just an ode to Holland, he said, but rather a celebration inspired by him. The idea is to transform the Gordon Galleries room into a Parisian jazz club, with a bar, snacks and speakers from all disciplines.

Schulman will discuss Holland, as well as lectures by former Virginia poet laureate Tim Seibles, jazz musician Jae Sinnett and English teacher Delores Philips.

Trumpeter Jack Beckner will play some of Holland’s work, which Schulman says is characterized by a style that is both robust and whimsical.

After all his research and his listening to Dutch music, Schulman feels a personal connection with him.

“I feel like I’m showing it off in Norfolk.”

If you are going to

When: 7 p.m. Monday 6 Dec.

Or: ODU Gordon Galleries, 4509 Monarch Way

Tickets: To free; Register at oduartstix.com or call ODU Arts Box Office at 757-683-5305

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