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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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


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

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