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Top Ten Jazz Songs To Listen To While Watching Basketball

Ken Hohman By

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Don't let the annoying jibber-jabber of announcers or a deluge of car commercials wreck your game. Turn the sound down and listen to these ten great jazz tracks as you watch your favorite NBA or college team keep the ball alive, jump on the fast break and drive it to the hoop. Basketball was made for jazz, and vice-versa!

1. Herbie Hancock: "Watermelon Man"
From Takin' Off (Blue Note, 1962)

This immortal, infectious and funky classic provides the perfect rhythmic impulses for fluid teamwork and precision passing with Dexter Gordon and Freddie Hubbard as veteran point guards.

2. Lee Morgan: "Yes I Can, No You Can't"
From The Gigolo (Blue Note, 1965)

Rubbery Bob Cranshaw bass line combines with the percolating Billy Higgins on drums for the build-up as Lee Morgan's trumpet takes it to the glass.

3. Jaki Byard: "Tillie Butterball"
From Hi-Fly (New Jazz, 1962)

The joyful, knuckle-twisting melody of Byard (who actually suffered from a serious hand ailment his entire life) and light, hypnotic beat of Pete La Roca complement team passing and collective rhythm on the court.

4. Christian McBride: "Theme For Kareem"
From Kind of Brown (Mack Avenue, 2009)

The snaking opening bass line by McBride personifies the sinewy strength of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a big jazz fan and jazz advocate) and the band follows up with a full court press.

5. Junior Mance: "Before This Time Another Year"
From Live At The Top (Atlantic, 1969)

Sanctified Philly soul by Mance on piano and the heavy pick-and-pop rhythmic drive by bassist Wilbur Little drive this one into the paint.

6. Buck Hill: "Beast Beautiful"
From Scope (Steeplechase, 1979)

The jazz mailman delivers the goods on this spirited workout that goes for three from the arc.

7. Phil Woods Quintet + One: "Dr. Dunk"
From Flash (Concord, 1990)

A true dusty gem, this deep groove composition by pianist Hal Galper conveys a patient, disciplined defense while Phil Woods and Tom Harrell capture the atmospheric leaps of hoops legend Darnell Hill.

8. Joshua Redman: "Sweet Nasty"
From Momentum (Nonesuch, 2005)

A stop-start rhythm and Redman's yackety sax gives this greasy funk number the nod for fake-out moves and behind-the-back passes.

9. Rickey Woodard: "The Silver Strut"
From Flash (Concord, 1996)

This fun, gospel-inspired strut delivers the razzle-dazzle of the Harlem Globetrotters with Cedar Walton establishing position and saxophonist Rickey Woodard and trumpeter Oscar Brashear scoring triple-doubles on offense.

10. Kenny Dorham: "Una Mas (One More Time)"
From Una Mas (Blue Note, 1963)

Everything comes together for the game winner on this one—the hypnotic Latin tinge of Herbie Hancock, the percussive Tony Williams, the fiery flutter and staccato of Kenny Dorham, Joe Henderson on sax and Butch Warren on bass. They even stretch it out into overtime! Una mas, indeed!

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