Still marveling at the Bucks’ one-year transformation? Consider basketball…and jazz

Could the winning chemistry between Bucks Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo & company have something to do with their kinship with another agile quintet (below), a classic jazz combo? Sure looks like they’re digging the groove, and maybe playing on a parallel plane. Bucks photo by Tom Lynn/AP

Silhouette of five players in jazz band, white background

Courtesy of Jazz Combo o-Jazz-was-not-meant-for-the-dinner-table

(Editor’s note: Culture Currents is finally back in the flow of things. This comes after several months of sitting on the sideline while enduring exasperating technical difficulties from computer updating and repeated fumbling of the ball on the two-yard-line by GoDaddy, the domain provider for www.kevernacular.com. So, enough, and onward with our exploration of our common and uncommon culture!)

Yes, the Milwaukee Bucks have probably the NBA’s MVP and coach of the year, two related assets expertly explored in the recent cover story on Giannis Antetokounmpo in Sports IllustratedWe’ll note also several great administrative moves: bringing in the revelatory center Brook Lopez, versatile backup guard George Hill, energy-spark Pat Connaughton, 3-point sharpshooter Nikola Mirotic, and returning wisened and wise ol’ Irsan Ilyasova to the fold.

But it seems like every healthy player has played better than they ever have, this year. Coincidence? Well, we might need to consider the old-fashioned yet timeless virtues of strong team coordination and chemistry, but perhaps from a fresh angle. 

A smart and insightful Milwaukee music journalist and ardent Bucks fan, Joey Grihalva, has come up with a deeply probing analogy to help explain the quasi-mystical vagaries of basketball team chemistry.
His premise is that a great basketball team like the Bucks is surprisingly akin to a great jazz quintet. That great American vernacular music has, of course, long evolved into an art form of individual and group improvisation, rhythmic buoyancy and dynamic interplay. The jazz tune, or form, follows those functions, like a well-designed basketball play working to a T, or sometimes when gifted players just wing it, like birds truly of a feather.

In this nifty essay – originally published on the 88.9 Radio Milwaukee website – you might say Joey Grihalva’s trying to make hoops X’s and O’s swing.

So, Joey – take it! Jazz piece

Why should we care about Miles Davis? New biopic, live tribute, local thoughts

Portrait of US jazz trumpet player Miles Davis taken 06 July 1991 in Paris. Portrait du trompettiste de jazz Miles Davis pris lors d'un concert le 06 juillet 1991 à la Halle de la Villette à Paris. (Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/GettyImages)

Portrait of US jazz trumpet player Miles Davis taken 06 July 1991 in Paris.
Portrait du trompettiste de jazz Miles Davis pris lors d’un concert le 06 juillet 1991 à la Halle de la Villette à Paris. (Photo credit PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/GettyImages)

Why care?

Miles Davis dwells at, and helped create, the root thrust of many music vernaculars of the 20th century — from vintage bop with Bird, to purring like a breeze-cooled cat in Birth of the Cool, to kicking in the blues ‘n’ back beat of workin’, walkin’ hard-bop with Trane, to modal jazz trance with Kind of Blue, to cutting-edge modern slash with his second great quintet, to polyrhythmic Afro-fusion with Bitches Brew, to deep street funk and proto-hip-hop ‘tude with On the Corner. And he always gave us the essence of personal style, as an expression of American individuality and romance. Whew.

Well, that’s by way of introduction to this radio story. Thanks to 88.9 Radio Milwaukee’s Glenn Kleiman and trumpeter Jamie Breiwick for including me in this fine feature. http://radiomilwaukee.org/discover-music/still-care-miles-davis/

The feature, with interviews of Breiwick and me is hooked on Don Cheadle’s highly-anticipated biographical film about Miles Davis Miles Ahead, and “A Tribute to Miles Davis,” (a supper club edition) a live concert event at Company Brewing, 735 E. Center St, Milwaukee, at 9:30 p.m. on April 15. The event is organized by and features saxophonist Jay Anderson along with trumpeter Russ Johnson, pianist Mark Davis, bassist Ethan Bender, and drummer Mitch Shiner. This is an excellent ensemble event, featuring music by and associated with Miles, not to be missed: https://www.facebook.com/events/1671208159798613/

Also, here is a link to my review of the 1983 Miles Davis concert in Milwaukee, for The Milwaukee Journal:https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19830218&id=XWgaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=4ykEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4166,4949562&hl=en