Baseball and Jazz

April 1st, 2017

Duke Ellington and members of his band play baseball during a 1955 tour

 

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Tomorrow is opening day of the 2017 baseball season.  The first day of major league baseball always provokes simultaneous thoughts of renewal and nostalgia – the return of sunshine (at last!) and an optimistic spirit is coupled with the thoughts of days gone by, when the likes of Mays and Mantle and Aaron roamed the outfield and Ellington and Armstrong and Miles set the rhythm of our culture.

Baseball and jazz are well connected, as theorized by trombonist Alan Ferber, who wrote that “baseball players and jazz musicians both strive for a perfect balance between disciplined practice and spontaneity.”  They also shared the spotlight in popular culture, when baseball was known as “America’s pastime,” jazz was its popular music. 

As the season begins, there are two terrific essays to point you to:

  • “The sound emanating from the crack of the bat is as well-loved as the long, soulful wail of a tenor saxophone,” The Smithsonian’s John Edward Hasse wrote in an April 1, 2014 essay on the connections of jazz and baseball, and how the game was popular with jazz musicians.  The page also includes some nice photos and a wonderful short film of Duke Ellington playing baseball.  Click here to view it.

 

  • On the Oxford Dictionary website, Dave Wilton writes about baseball’s role in the origination of the word “jazz.” “There are a lot of stories about the origin of the word jazz, most amounting to no more than speculation asserted as fact. But we now know that jazz started out as an early-20th century baseball term for ‘pep, energy’ before it became the name for the new syncopated musical style.”  To read Wilton’s April, 2015 piece, click here.

 

Louis Armstrong’s Secret 9 baseball team, New Orleans, 1931

 

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 Some jazz songs about baseball

 

Les Brown & His Band of Renown: “Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio” (1941)

 

Count Basie: “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?” (1949)

 

Mabel Scott:  “Baseball Boogie” (1950)

 

Jane Morgan:  “Baseball Baseball” (1954)

 

Treniers: “Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song)” (1955)

 

Nat King Cole: “The First Baseball Game” (1961)

 

Frank Sinatra:  “There Used to Be a Ballpark” (1973)

 

Teresa Brewer (with Mickey Mantle): “I Love Mickey” (1956)

 

Modern Jazz Quartet:  “Baseball” (1975)

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In This Issue

In this issue, 25 noted critics, writers, musicians and artists answer the question, “What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?”…Also, an interview with Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell; ”And so we left for Paris” a short story by Sophie Jonas-Hill; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht (one on Paul Desmond, the other on Art Farmer); 18 poets contribute 20 poems to our March poetry collection; new jazz listening recommendations; and lots more…

“What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?”

Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Neil Tesser, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who write about their favorite album cover art

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"And so we went to Paris," a short story by Sophie Jonas-Hill

Poetry

Eighteen poets contribute 20 poems in the March collection

Interviews

Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell discusses the life of the important 20th century American artist

The Joys of Jazz

Two new podcasts from Bob Hecht -- on Paul Desmond, and Art Farmer

Poetry

“King Louis en le toilette” — a poem (and collage) by Steven Dalachinsky

On the Turntable

Recommended listening…Check out these 18 recently released jazz recordings by Branford Marsalis, Anna Maria Jopek, Ralph Alessi, Larry Grenadier, Jon Cowherd, Stephane Galland, Mathias Eick and the Jimbo Tribe

Art

“Thinking about Robert Johnson” — a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Great Encounters #54

In this edition, Joe Hagan, author of STICKY FINGERS: .The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine, writes about how co-founders Wenner and legendary San Francisco music critic Ralph Gleason came upon the name for their revolutionary publication, Rolling Stone magazine.

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Coming Soon

An interview with Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon

In the previous issue

The February, 2019 issue features an interview with Thomas Brothers, author of Help! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration…Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; two new podcasts from Bob Hecht; a new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently release jazz recordings, and lots more…

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