Jon Batiste (Verve)
New Orleans is joy and indescribable magic, and its inhabitants and descendants carry a musical DNA of this ever-blooming spirit. Steeped fully in this tradition as part of an indisputable musical dynasty is Jon Batiste, an artist clearly composed of compositions and a connective energy so great it’s able to permeate well beyond New Orleans and even Jazz to reach us all wherever we stand.
Latest release We Are is a loving tribute to Batiste’s Louisiana roots that opens with the title track, an exact declaration: “We Are.” The lines “We are the golden ones/We are the chosen ones” are accompanied with cameos by his high school’s marching band, the St. Augustine High School Marching 100, as well as the Gospel Soul Children’s Choir and even his grandfather.
The record then moves into one of many childhood-inspired portraits as songs “Tell The Truth.” The soul-stirring and vulnerable “Cry” reminds us there can’t be up without down, then back to uplift with “I Need You” and beyond until the record winds all the way back. Closing track “Until” features the hand-drumming of Mardi Gras Indians and the chant “Shoo fly, don’t bother me” overlaid by dreamscape piano effectively looping us forward through the context of our history.
How Batiste finds the time to take us on this joyful journey is indicative of purity of purpose. Basically recorded in his Late Show dressing room at the Ed Sullivan Theater over the course of six days, these songs were more than ready to emerge. “The greats always had a lot on their mind that they were able to process into their music. Their genius was in their ability to capture it all and simplify it, so there is a universal quality to it that can be accessed by millions, but if you listen and study closely, there is an extensive depth to it.” Jon said. The same can be said here.
Taking advantage of this body of work are The Current, Lightning 100, KXT and KRVB are just a small sample of the over 70 stations on the record.
Photo by Louis Browne