Crossing musical borders in jazz and classical, blues, rap and R & B is composer-pianist Jon Batiste, the New Orleans, Julliard trained virtuoso who brings cross-cultural audiences together in the streets and in the concert hall.
Jon Batiste is under thirty and part of the new vanguard in jazz, but he sounds like he has been performing and creating music for much longer. He returns to the Kimmel Center this week for one night only with Jon Batiste and Stay Human that will cap off a month of jazz programming in April, which Philly designates as jazz appreciation month. After Philly, the group will perform at International Jazz Day in Newport, RI April 30 and at the New Orleans Jazz Fest May 3.
The bandleader spoke by phone from New York this week about the concerts “I love touring. The music has to go where you are inspired to go. It’s one of those things you can’t replace, the live experience,” he observes. It is the essence of what composer-pianist Jon Batiste calls ‘Social Music’ the title of the band’s 2013 recording.
Batiste is not only a gifted pianist; he is a singer with sublime jazz-blues phrasing for someone so young. He grew up as part of a famed musical family in a suburb of New Orleans, starting out with percussion instruments, At 11 his mother suggested he try piano. He studied at Julliard School in New York and has since won prestigious awards, and has performed in more than 40 countries. He is also artistic director-at-large for the National Jazz Museum of Harlem.
He recalls “loving” playing hear a few years ago as vocalist Cassandra Wilson’s pianist for her appearance in Philly on her Silver Pony tour. For his current concert, Batiste will be joined onstage by regular band members who are part of the new vanguard in jazz- alto saxophonist Eddie Barbash (alto saxophone), Ibanda Ruhumbika (tuba), Joe Saylor (percussion, Barry Stevenson (bass, banjo) and Jameson Ross (vocals). Ross also creates what the bandleader calls “atmospheric imagery.”
He described the playlist as “a mixture of material from Social Music, older stuff, then there is the unexpected the newest stuff that we’ve written and what happens with the interaction, the human exchange, with the audience in our shows, which could be anything,” he assures.
The Stay Human band members are close friends offstage, and says that the music “is definitely part of how we relate to each other as people. The musicians share the same philosophy that social music is the next phase in where we are going. My conception of music changes over time, it is beautiful to follow that path with brothers.”
He says young audiences are moving away from staid music categories as jazz and classical. “it’s normal for people to think of music and musicians in terms of genres and categories, because that‘s how we purchase our music. Music based on the genre system I think is changing now with streaming and things like that, putting all these different styles of music together in one place, so people are genre hopping whether they realize it or not, just by the nature of digital mediums now,” Batiste observes.
The Kimmel Center has been increasing their jazz programming and has hosted regular free concerts of jazz featuring salsa, Afro-Caribbean, big-bands, just to mention a few. Their current ‘jazz in residency’ series of programs features Philly-based trumpeter Josh Lawrence, saxophonist Bobby Zankel and percussionist Pablo Batista a that will culminate in performances of the completed work.
Jon Batiste and Stay Human on tour | Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center, April 25 |for a complete listing of jazz events go to http://www.kimmelcenter.org