John Edward Hasse

Jazz and Baseball

The very word jazz may owe its origins to baseball, for the first documented use of the word jazz, meaning a kind of pep, occurred in a 1912 Los Angeles Times article on baseball.
Dr.
John Edward Hasse

Jazz and baseball? What’s their connection?

Your first thought might be, that’s about as odd a pairing as God and gambling. . . or reggae and Roosevelt. In this highly enlightening presentation, Dr. John Edward Hasse of the Smithsonian Institution delves—through anecdotes, archival images, and rare film footage—into what makes this connection run deep. Here are just some of the qualities they have in common:

Ellington 1955 Florida by bus.
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    Baseball and jazz use swing as a noun and a verb, and in both fields, swing involves time and timing.

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    In both we talk of players and playing—playing ball, playing jazz.

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    Both Jazz and baseball were born in the United States and stand throughout the world as American symbols.

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    The sport and the musical genre require players with years of preparation, frequent practice, teamwork, motor memory, and a high level of skill.

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    Both jazz musicians and baseball players strive for a perfect balance between disciplined practice and spontaneity, between the prescribed and the improvised.

Cab Calloway baseball team.

Jazz greats and the American pastime

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    Charlie Parker avidly followed the Kansas City Monarchs, later the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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    Louis Armstrong sponsored a baseball team.

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    Ella Fitzgerald hung out with the Dodgers.

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    During the swing era, many big bands formed baseball teams—Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington.

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    And jazz musicians recorded numerous songs about baseball, from Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Baseball Boogie to Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?

Whether an ardent fan of the game, the music—or both—John’s evocative presentation will enlighten and entertain the audience.

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