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Jon Batiste and Stay Human: Social Music

by Jeff Tamarkin on December 18, 2013

Like the Nevilles and the Marsalises, the Batistes are musical royals in New Orleans, but the young pianist/vocalist Jon Batiste has lived in New York City long enough now that his music has absorbed plenty of that city’s electric juice and melting-pot multiculturalism. Batiste, alto saxophonist Eddie Barbash, tuba man Ibanda Ruhumbika and drummer Joe Saylor are specialists in non-specializing—they glide and slide easily from genre to genre, tempo to tempo, mood to mood. Influences meld, assimilate and dissolve. Their “St. James Infirmary” treats the warhorse as a spaced-out soul vamp; it’s followed by a take
on pianist John Hicks’ “Naima’s Love Song,” built on Batiste’s chirpy melodica. Among the originals, it’s party-time funky in “Express Yourself (Say Yes)” and meditatively joyous in “The Spirit Is with Us.” Closing with “The Star Spangled Banner,” Batiste’s imperial solo piano gives the anthem perhaps its first real rethink since Hendrix at Woodstock.

Authors: Jeff Tamarkin
Artist: Jon Batiste and Stay Human
Album: Social Music
Label: Razor & Tie