At the intersection of music and basketball

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Photo by Chris Koza
Jimmy Cummings

Three in the Key is Chris Koza's column exploring a musician's life as a basketball fanatic. The Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter-composer leads the band Rogue Valley. Get him on the court, and he's trouble.

First Ave and 7th Street. It's a loaded sentence because to anyone who follows sports or music in the Twin Cites, it's the mutual hanger for both motherships. There have been many nights where I've started off at a Timberwolves game at Target Center and ended up at a show afterwards -- most recently being the Wolves vs. the Blazers followed by Dosh and Prissy Clerks in the Mainroom.

This intersection is a geographical blending of the athletic and the aural with surprisingly common and complimentary qualities, the closer I look. Actually, once you start looking (and listening) around, it's everywhere.


Any sporting event is rife with high-decibel sounds and rhythmic patterns, check. Both shows and games utilize familiar compositions and incorporate feats of physical athleticism, check. And, there is music at both -- DJ Mad Mardigan handles curating a Timberwolves game. Also, I appreciate being able to watch basketball any night of the week regardless of team or allegiance at the First Ave owned and operated Depot Bar. There are many seemingly shallow interests in people's lives which are actually just the tide pools of a deeper reservoir.

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Chris Koza

For example, take the music of conversation on the MetroTransit bus. The 18 seems like one of those storied bus routes; where one might find entitlement and enlightenment sitting side by side. Business and pleasure mix here, with 9-5ers and 5-9ers converging on their way to the mainline of Nicollet Mall. From various parts of the bus, fragments of conversations collect in an involuntary audio collage in the crowded center aisle.

"They won't let me buy any diabetic supplies at that CVS. I'm going over on the north-side where I know a guy. I'm gonna be pissed if they don't sell me any," says the grinning and determined young man whose blackened teeth shed some light. "Man, you shouldn't be able to vape on here. Nobody really knows what that stuff is or what it does to people around it," says the pregnant woman sitting near the rear exit in objection of a leather-clad-middle-aged-e-cig-smoking-man sitting near the front. "I think they're gonna be pretty good this year... I mean, they started off hot and have been playing pretty good against some good teams. Y'know Love is for real!" says the man in the middle of the bus. Yes, Kevin Love is for real, and you can find a hundred examples of songwriters trying to convince their listeners that "Love is Real" too

One more example: I'm a member at the YWCA in uptown on Hennepin. Recently there was a special "in the spirit of Thanksgiving" pick-up game where members and non-members alike were encouraged to bring Thanksgiving-themed foodstuffs in conjunction with a night of pick-up ball.

In pursuing the subject of the crossover artist/athlete, I had a brief conversation with Jimmy Cummings, a multi-disciplinarian artist and athlete. His current band is called Mainland. You should check them out. (Besides being a singer-songwriter, Jimmy is also a comedian and has an upcoming performance at the Corner Bar on December 12.)

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His well-maintained body is covered in tattoo artwork that is technically impressive and emotionally profound. As far as his basketball experience goes, Jimmy describes himself as "self-guarded and knowing how to yell 'feed me the rock!'" Jimmy believes exercise and music are both great forms of release. He acknowledges the requisite self-involvement while appreciating the benefits of emotional and physical cleansing.

The contradiction that is the athlete and the artist are embodied not only in individual people, but also in city planning. Just like a bus route, filled to the pull-lines with people of all shapes, sizes, and interests, people are complicated and diverse in their perception of self-identity.

In the context of global needs vs. wants, it is a humbling luxury to be able to be an artist. It is a luxury to exercise for enjoyment. Every time I'm on the bus, among the myriad stimulus, I see someone with a gig bag or gym clothes. This convergence is inspiring: like so many other things that strangely overlap, the enjoyment of basketball and music are rarely mutually exclusive.


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