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

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 19 recently released jazz recordings, including those by Branford Marsalis, Joe Martin, Scott Robinson, Allison Au and Warren Vache

Poetry

In a special collection of poetry, eight poets contribute seventeen poems focused on stories about family, and honoring mothers and fathers

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob Hecht presents three very different stories; on Harlem Stride piano, Billy Strayhorn's end-of-life composition "Blood Count," and "Lester-ese," Lester Young’s creative verbal wit and wordplay.

Short Fiction

We had many excellent entrants in our recently concluded 50th Short Fiction Contest. In addition to publishing the winning story on March 11, with the consent of the authors, we have published several of the short-listed stories...

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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

Art

“Thinking about Homer Plessy” — a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #128

Although he was famous for modernizing the sound of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was his biggest hit while working for Dorsey (pictured) -- this arranger will forever be best-known for his work with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.

Art

Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.

Interviews

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

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

Michael Cuscuna, the legendary record producer and founder of Mosaic Records, is interviewed about his life in jazz...Award-winning photographer Carol Friedman, on her career in the world of New York jazz photography

In the previous issue

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, talks about her book, and the complex life of her late husband.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 22 recommended recordings by seven jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

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