Social music. This is how up and coming artist, John Batiste refers to his music and jazz music in general as during a live set of Jon Batiste & Stay Human.* At first, this phrase may seem pretentiously effusive. After all, it does not take a professional music critic nor an intellectual to understand that music is meant to be enjoyed by others or shared. What the twenty seven year old Lousiana pianist means instead is that jazz likes to draw from all sorts of styles and inspiration in a way that allows for seriously progressive music. Jazz is everything you want it to be in many ways, and Jon Batiste & Stay Human are creating some seriously enticing progressive jazz.
Batiste is backed by a talented group of young artists: Eddie Barbash (sax), Ibanda Ruhumika (tuba), and Joe Saylor (percussion). I had a chance to see the group in performance at the 57th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival. The group’s carefree and fun loving vibes was most evident in in Batiste’s wardrobe choice for his big MJF debut: skinny mint green suit. The man has confidence and knows how to have a good time.
The group is surely eclectic in its inspiration and sound. It’s almost as if Andree 3000 successfully decided to dapple in jazz one day. Batiste has a soulful voice that is built for R&B and smooth jazz, yet his music touches upon numerous musical styles. One moment he crooned a classic and the next he is busting out some hardcore Dixieland jazz, whose rollicking vibes got the otherwise indifferent audience on its feet. Whatever he decides to draw from, what is certain is that Batiste is a virtuosic pianist who enjoys some serious foot stompin’ backed percussion. I look forward to seeing what is next for the man in the mint green suit.
* See video for Jon Batiste & Stay Human covering “Wrecking Ball” below