Beards & Banjos

Jazz & Cricket


There are two subjects I have spent a long time thinking about. Jazz and Cricket. I play both and study both. Cricket I came to late. I went to a comprehensive school and cricket was about 2 weeks of games lessons a year. I didn't join a local club and was involved in so many musical and other sporting activities that cricket didn't have a place. If you add to that the fact that cricket is quite a kit intensive sport it's not that surprising that I didn't encounter it in my youth. My son seems to have inherited my hand eye coordination and is a very active young cricketer and a good one to boot, so I have spent many hours on cricket pitches and driving him around the country to play County under 11 teams in the past year. He is a Colt at Hampstead Cricket Club and last year was the 150th Anniversary. LBW and the Leg Slippers were born. We played several gigs for matches to commemorate the year, so cricket and trad Jazz came into juxtaposition. Thanks to the very generous support of Darcy Clothing we are able to turn out looking not unlike the chap in the picture above. For those of you unfamiliar that is WG Grace arguably the first English cricket star and as an MCC player he took on the world at cricket. The main entrance to Lords cricket Ground is called the "Grace Gate" in his honour


The human brain is a pattern seeking machine and I have noticed some similarities in Jazz & Cricket. These are my observations and I welcome positive discussion on the points I raise.


Cricket & Jazz are complex


If someone tells you they know everything about Jazz or cricket I humbly suggest they are mistaken. The great thing about both is that there is layer upon layer to uncover. I think you can enjoy both on a superficial level but the more you know the more you get out of them. It is the joy of complex things; they require time and persistence and a series of small epiphanies bring deeper understanding and a hunger for the next revelation to occur.


Players of jazz and cricket put in thousands of hours of practice and development to perform in front of an audience and make things look or sound easy. It is why some attempt to actively engage with either or both of them brings even greater appreciation of the great players. Club cricketers who have put in the hard yards know just how good a particular batsman is or bowler is because they have experienced first hand the feeling of middling a cover drive or taking the off stump out of the ground with an absolute peach of a delivery. I would say the same of the casual sousaphone player but buying a sousaphone isn't something one does casually!


A Special Language


The last sentence brings me to another point. There are words that apply to both of these activities which require the viewer or listener to expand their vocabulary. I find it interesting that both Swing & Rhythm apply to both subjects for example. It helps to know the fielding positions; some of which have somewhat mercurial names that, if taking literally, can sound comical. Backward point,short fine leg and Silly mid on are good examples of these. These odd terms do serve a purpose though, they allow a team of players to interact and work together to a common end. Much like the roles of the different instruments in a jazz band.


They say "It's not the winning but the taking part that counts" this has a certain merit. I wish there were more social cricketers & musicians because then there would be more Jazz & Cricket fans. Professional cricketers and Musicians love the taking part but they are out to win, to perform at the highest level and it is this combination of personal and team skill and effort that makes for great music and great sport. 




Cricket & Jazz are performances


Finally in this post I suggest that another similarity between cricket and Jazz is that there are a set of traditions,conventions, calls and responses and scenarios that cricketers and Jazz musicians are aware of and that the seasoned fan also comes to understand. There are inventions and extensions to existing tropes, the "slower ball bouncer " just didn't exist until recently. There is a constant need to improvise within the constraints of the format and it is this that keeps both cricket and jazz exciting. The beautifully played cover drive or clarinet solo has in it the tradition but is also "in the moment", both contain the past and the present, the influence of the old masters and the current protagonist. I believe that cricket and Jazz are also learnt in less conventional ways, cricket though physical assimilation, Jazz through Aural assimilation, in a world where so much goes in through the eyes. 


Finally beards, there are lots of beards and some are as magnificent as WG Grace's take a look at Moeen Ali