Baseball and Jazz

April 1st, 2017

 

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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.

 

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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

The winter collection of poetry offers readers a look at the culture of jazz music through the imaginative writings of its 32 contributors. Within these 41 poems, writers express their deep connection to the music – and those who play it – in their own inventive and often philosophical language that communicates much, but especially love, sentiment, struggle, loss, and joy.

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges discusses the great Ellington saxophonist

Book Excerpt

This story, excerpted from Irving Berlin: New York Genius by James Kaplan, describes how Berlin came to write his first major hit song, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and speaks to its historic musical and cultural significance.

Interview

photo by Francis Wolff/© Mosaic Images
Interview with Paul Lopes, author of Art Rebels: Race, Class and Gender in the Art of Miles Davis and Martin Scorsese

Poetry

photo of Archie Shepp by Veryl Oakland
"Archie Shepp's Jazz Song," by Susana Case

Art

Art by Charles Ingham
“Charles Ingham’s Jazz Narratives” — Vol. 1 -- a unique view of jazz history

Jazz History Quiz #133

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
This musician first recorded with Ben Pollack’s band in 1936, and then joined Benny Goodman (pictured) in 1937. He eventually started his own band, in which Frank Sinatra sang for a short time in 1939. In 1941 he recorded “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It”), which made him a star — second only to Glenn Miller in popularity in 1942. Who is he?

Community

News about the poet Arlene Corwin

Photography

photo of Stephane Grappelli by Veryl Oakland
Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light” — photos (and stories) of violinists Joe Venuti, Stephane Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty, Zbigniew Seifert, and Leroy Jenkins

Short Fiction

Photo/CC0 Public Doman
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #52 — “Random Blonde,” by Zandra Renwick

Great Encounters

photo of Sidney Bechet by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition of "Great Encounters," Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music, author Gerald Horne writes about the severe cultural and economic obstacles jazz musicians have encountered since the music's inception

Interview

photo by Michael Lionstar
In a wide-ranging interview, Nate Chinen, former New York Times jazz critic and currently the director of editorial content for WBGO (Jazz) Radio, talks about his book Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century,, described by Herbie Hancock as a “fascinating read” that shows Chinen’s “firm support of the music

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

In this edition, producer Helen Keane tells Michael Jarrett, author of Pressed For All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums about how the collaboration of Tony Bennett and Bill Evans began, culminating in the 1975 recording, The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album.

Interview

Photographer Carol Friedman
In an entertaining conversation that also features a large volume of her famous photography, Carol Friedman discusses her lifelong work of distinction in the world of jazz photography

Humor

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
"Every Soul is a Circus," by Dig Wayne

Short Fiction

photo/Creative Commons CC0.
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, contributes a humorous short story, "Father Kniest: Jazz Priest"

In the Previous Issue

photo of Sullivan Fortner by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

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