Why do jazz musicians share a longstanding affection and admiration with athletes and vice-versa? Besides having some obvious commonalities—great hand-eye coordination, for instance—it all points to high-octane performance.
“Preparation, performance and the ability to change things up and make decisions and movements freely, on the spot,” says Doug Doyle, News and Sports Director at WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM, listing both professions’ mutual traits. Doyle is also the host of the award-winning SportsJam on WBGO, a weekly 30-minute conversation with artists and athletes who speak jazz.
Two jazz aficionados who know a thing or two about sports—two athletes who know their jazz?—are front and center on Sunday, March 2 when Christian McBride Presents... Jazz Meets Sports in NJPAC’s Victoria Theater. NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and former Yankee Bernie Williams—a Latin Grammy-nominated jazz guitarist—will be joined by a trio led by NJPAC Jazz Advisor, bassist and Eagles fan Christian McBride
Williams, who is co-author of Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Musical and Athletic Performance, has appeared on SportsJam, as have Abdul-Jabbar and McBride. Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown told Doyle that Miles Davis turned him on to jazz; trumpeter Jon Faddis said he’s an avid bowler; Dianne Reeves sang the praises of the Denver Broncos.
Doyle, who played high school sports in Murrysville, Pa., says he hears stories from his on-air guests dating back to the heyday of the Negro Leagues, when post-game gatherings frequently migrated to the jazz clubs. “They had that mutual respect for each other’s performance,” Doyle notes. “They all knew each other.” Test your Jazz Meets Sports trivia know-how below.
Doyle devised this quiz based on his past interviews, which you can listen to here or free on iTunes. Scroll down for the answers.
A) When NBA great Earl “The Pearl” Monroe was trying to cope with injuries, this iconic jazz performer called to offer help.
B) Jazz educator and big-band leader Dave Lalama played on the same midget team as this former NFL great from Pennsylvania.
C) Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins was a trumpeter in his early jazz band days and also plays the cello, piano and trombone. He says he’d like to be reincarnated as this world-famous cellist.
D) When Jersey baseball legend Monte Irvin and ace saxophonist Jimmy Heath shared the mic on SportsJam, they both swooned over this jazz singer from Newark.
E) This 1968 Olympian – a middle distance runner from Cedar Grove – now enjoys playing jazz guitar in Florida.
F) Newark tap phenomenon Savion Glover, whose dance works are closely tied to jazz, uses the vernacular of his favorite sport during rehearsals or sometimes when he describes a movement. Name that sport.
Answers: A) Miles Davis B) Tony Dorsett C) Yo-Yo Ma D) Sarah Vaughan E) Marty Liquori F) Basketball