November 24, 2014

Baseball And Jazz…Two American Originals

February 1, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

When music at the ballpark is mentioned one’s thoughts immediately summon an organ playing assorted diddies designed to get the crowd to make some noise, as well as the famous seventh inning stretch favorite “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”  Dixieland also is a ballpark favorite as the groups are small and feature lively tunes.

Baseball usually doesn’t conjure thoughts of big band music but in the early 1940’s, barnstorming Negro League baseball teams doubled as big band jazz bands in the evening.  This discovery led to the creation of the “Jazz and Baseball” show at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh on February 12 and 13.

MCGJazz Executive Producer Marty Ashby, a long time baseball fan, discovered the interesting tie between the two distinctly American pastimes while researching another project at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  “We’re not sure whether they were jazz bands that played baseball or baseball teams that played jazz,” said Ashby.  What he did know was these teams helped pay the bills by playing ball during the day and then turning out the tunes at night.

Ashby then approached longtime Yankees Entertainment Director Stanley Kay about collaborating on the show.  Kay not only worked for the Yankees for decades but he managed and subbed for drummer Buddy Rich and had ties to the jazz world that pre-dated his tenure with the Bronx Bombers.  Kay founded the big band “Diva” that is a powerhouse band with a roster of all women.

The New York based big band was the ideal selection as the centerpiece of the concert to play such hits from the Big Band era as “Baseball Boogie” and “Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.”  The music will reminisce of an era when baseball and big band jazz weren’t just things to do; they were key elements of ‘pop culture’ for the era.

The performance will also pay tribute to Kay who passed away in June of last year.  In addition to Kay’s favorite big band…there’s another name on the show roster who was no stranger to Kay.  Broadway star Haley Swindal, granddaughter of the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, will step up to take a few swings.  So will MLB umpire Joe West who will forgo calling balls and strikes to croon a tune or two and share some of stories.

“Baseball and jazz are a lot alike,” offers Ashby.  “They both offer individual freedom for the players to improvise but the team or band is always greater than its individual parts.”

That commonality will be shared and celebrated in this show.  Maybe jazz will pop to mind with the mention of baseball.

Comments

2 Responses to “Baseball And Jazz…Two American Originals”
  1. Austin says:

    Fascinating!

  2. Excellent! I just wish they would play any kind of jazz at Yankee Stadium instead of the wretched tunes they have now..how fitting to hear “Take the A Train” or any bebop at a stadium in NYC?

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