Jonathan Batiste who Red Hot Chili Peppers' Chad Smith says is "the best thing to come outta Nawlins since the Po'Boy sandwich." A frequent collaborator with Lenny Kravitz and Prince, this 26 year old renegade is reinterpreting jazz, soul and funk and spearheading a revival in the spirit of Amy Winehouse.
Batiste has the chops of a concert pianist and the looks of a pop star. He was born into New Orleans musical royalty and groomed for greatness at Julliard. He's as likely to riff on Lady Gaga as on Duke Ellington, as apt to perform in a subway car as at Carnegie Hall. With Stay Human--a rebel crew of fellow Julliard grads--Batiste splits the difference between Stevie Wonder and Outkast.
“I'm always about trying to fill a need with what I do in my artistry,” says Jon Batiste, an artist whose ambition is nothing less than to transform the very lives of his listeners. “There is definitely a need in the performing arts world for a movement to come along that seriously connects with a next generation audience while still maintaining the timeless artistic objectives present throughout the history of the American music tradition.” It's a goal Batiste is steadily achieving with every performance, every interview, every song, every album.
Those two essential criteria – peerless artistry combined with all the uplifting pleasure of entertainment – exist squarely at the heart of Batiste's musical vision. And they are both fully evident in every exultant note on Social Music (Razor & Tie), the new album by Batiste and his irrepressible musical collective, Stay Human. Both the title of the album and the name of the band are telling. Now a quartet (with Batiste on piano, vocals and melodica, which he has renamed the harmonaboard; Eddie Barbash on alto saxophone; Ibanda Ruhumbika on tuba; and Joe Saylor on drums), Stay Human has evolved over the past eight years, running the spectrum from a jazz trio to a quintet to a big band with horns.
Social Music reflects that extraordinary range. On “D-Flat Movement,” the album's opening track, you can hear Batiste elegantly dueting with the sounds of thunder. Meanwhile, “It's Alright (Why You Gotta)” slinks along on a seductively funky cha-cha groove, and “Express Yourself” jitters on an angular harmonaboard riff, its encouraging message balanced precariously all the while. Throughout the album, elements of jazz, classical music and Americana nuzzle up against beats that could light up a club dance floor, and standards like “St. James Infirmary” and “Naima's Love Song” nestle in alongside spoken-word samples like “The Jazzman Speaks” (featuring the voice of jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton) and statements of spiritual yearning like “Let God Lead.” “This album is the latest evolution of the band,” Batiste says.
Batiste and his band The Stay Human will be releasing their new album 'Social Music' this October 15.More Info
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