“COOPERSTOWN OR BUST!” is chalked on many vans that pull up every summer in front of our house across the lawn from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It is a long and winding road trip to Cooperstown, and the recording process was that way as well. But what a trip! Such great talent here to hear, on both sides of the microphones. Rod Gilfry! John Atkinson! I have been honored by their enthusiastic support and participation. I have been to the Show.
“It breaks your heart.” That was the poetic language A. Bartlett Giamatti used in his beautiful essay “The Green Fields of the Mind”, and I am pleased that the Giamatti estate gave us permission to use his text. I began to work backward from there in the fall of 2000. Whose heart? And how was it broken? In Giamatti’s thinking, baseball is a game but also an art form, with the capacity to express the deepest emotional truths about individuals and society. One has only to pick up the sports pages to see this dynamic acted out against the economic and cultural realities of our time.
Baseball has its own specific historical musical attributes. One of them is the sound of the stadium organ. That sound led me quickly to scoring the music for a “Miles” jazz quintet. This particular grouping of instruments is as capable as any large orchestra of realizing music in all its potential variety. The musical materials boil down to the rising three-chord “Charge” fanfare still heard in stadiums everywhere, which can be turned to the dark side by becoming an altered dominant harmony.
Early on in the work process I had a sonic picture in my ear of what a finished recording of “Cooperstown” might sound like. I used as a model the great Blue Note stereo recordings of the late 50’s and early 60’s by Rudy Van Gelder: trumpet hard left, saxophone hard right, then added a vocal cast of five. I have nothing on my shelf that sounds quite like it.
“Cooperstown” brings together forms and techniques from jazz, opera, musical theater and baseball itself, to tell a uniquely American story in a new and different way.
— Sasha Matson