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Jon Batiste will perform in a pregame celebration during a tribute to the Negro Leagues

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Tonight, the oldest ballpark in America hosts a tribute to the Negro Leagues. Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala., will host a regular-season game between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants, and award-winning musician Jon Batiste will perform in a pregame celebration. Joseph King with the Gulf States Newsroom caught up with Batiste during his solo tour.

JON BATISTE: Ooh. Fire.

JOSEPH KING, BYLINE: That's Jon Batiste in Birmingham recently, summarizing his tour in one word. The genre-defying musician from New Orleans spent years playing on the Colbert show and big stages like Coachella and at the Oscars.

BATISTE: Birmingham is one of those places that has a lot of sacred sites, sacred landmarks in places where our heroes - heroes of humanity, heroes of spiritual enlightenment in the world - they congregated.

KING: He's at one of these places. It's a warm evening, and Sunday Suppah (ph) is being served inside of The Ballard House in Birmingham.

DANELLA JOHNSON: We have baked chicken, broccoli salad, mac and cheese.

KING: Danella Johnson helped plan a private dinner for Batiste the night before his show. The Ballard House is in the heart of Birmingham's Civil Rights District and preserves African American history in the city.

JOHNSON: This is more personal, you know? And so we wanted him to see The Ballard House - to see part of what we are doing here in Birmingham.

KING: Birmingham was a late addition to Batiste's tour. He says he's been absorbing the city's history and legacy.

BATISTE: And I come into a place like this or when I walk, you know, you go past even tragic sites that - you know, 16th Street, the Baptist church that John Coltrane wrote "Alabama" for when those four girls tragically were killed in the bombing. All those kind of things I think about, and I feel the energy. And I take that with me into performance, and I channel it.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN COLTRANE'S "ALABAMA")

KING: Now Batiste is back in Birmingham to perform a musical tribute to the legacy of the Negro Leagues. Now a resident of Brooklyn, Batiste says, when he comes back down South, he's reminded of what led him into the world of music.

BATISTE: And I'm like, oh, I'm rooted in something that's way bigger than me. It's a whole lineage of humanity and history. And all of this leads to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRY")

BATISTE: (Singing) Who do you love?

KING: Batiste will be part of the pregame show of the MLB at Rickwood: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRY")

BATISTE: (Singing) Who do you love...

KING: For NPR News, I'm Joseph King in Birmingham.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRY")

BATISTE: (Singing) ...When push comes to shove? How does it feel? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Joseph King
[Copyright 2024 WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio]