A New York musician with New Orleans roots is bringing his band to Iowa for the first time this week, delivering what he says is a unique musical style never before heard in the heart of the country. Jon Batiste says the songs he creates with Stay Human challenge the genre and span generations as they contain elements of jazz, funk, spirituality, hip-hop, classical music and more. .
The 26-year-old calls the sound “social” music. “You just have to surround yourself with great musicians who have great spirit and great energy,” says Batiste. “The soul that they have is very important and the chemistry between all the different people in the band and also, just making music that comes from this place.”
When performing, Batiste says he tries to “fill a need” for the listener, claiming his ambition is nothing less than to transform their lives. Batiste says, “You can have all the talent in the world and all the technique in the world, but when you have mastery of intention you can really learn to articulate your points in music, deeper and deeper.”
Bearing witness to his lack of a single musical genre, Batiste has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, recording with a roster including Prince, Cassandra Wilson, Lauryn Hill, Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Buffet and Lenny Kravitz. “It’s more about the music that brings people together and the idea of playing different kinds of music in one musical statement,” says Batiste. “It’s powerful for me. You can have different people who like different genres and they come together through the music and the experience because there is something going on for them.
Batiste was born in New Orleans to a family whose deep musical heritage is part of the inspiration for the HBO series “Treme”, in which he appeared. One of the characters in the series, Delmond Lambreaux (lam-BROH), is based on Batiste. Batiste graduated from the Juilliard School in New York, where he obtained a master’s degree in jazz and classical piano. He says he loves hopping on the subway with his band mates to put on impromptu concerts for commuters. “You bring it to them and you give them a life-long experience of it, something they never expected to see or hear,” says Batiste. “It changes their day and it makes them feel good and it makes them want to tell their friends and family about it.”
Batiste is a frequent lecturer, masterclass, and general artistic director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. The group is a quartet, with Batiste on piano, vocals and melodica – a wind piano that sounds like a horn while being played like a piano. It looks like a harmonica or an accordion. He calls it a “harmon-a-board”. The other three members of the group play: tuba, alto saxophone and drums.
They play Thursday night in Iowa City at the Englert Theater and Sunday night at the Temple for Performing Arts in Des Moines. Find out more on: www.jonbatiste.com