Choose artist...

Top 10 for Sep

Ten tracks by Jon Batiste LONDON JAZZ NEWS can't do without

Bookmark and Share

For the LJN “10 Tracks I Can’t Do Without” series, in which jazz musicians do a deep (and entirely personal and selective) dive into the music of their idols, singer-songwriter Lara Eidi (*) picks some of her favourite Jon Batiste moments: Lara Eidi writes….In the chaotic industry that is contemporary music, Jon Batiste has managed to stay true to the thing that motivates him: simply, his love for music and all that it entails. As he has said: “…music has always been something that has had all of the different purposes of our life and our community and our healing and our unspoken pain – and the transmission of messages and the raising awareness of a condition of a people”. 

This is the most prominent reason I have for thinking that Jon Batiste is our modern-day Renaissance Man, and a true healer. Any work he’s done he’s excelled at, whether it was his early formative years of teaching workshops and clinics to under-educated, inner city school children in The Netherlands, or affirming his status as an exceptional bandleader and pianist performing with his band Stay Human for the Stephen Colbert Show since 2015.

His film work, most notably his compositions for the film Soul, brought joy in one of humanity’s darkest hours, and his attention to detail to revitalise his culture and bring awareness has seen him shifting between the protest of Juneteenth, performing on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library in the aftermath of George Floyd and revitalising the original Harlem Dance in his song ‘I Need You’. He’s quite literally unstoppable, generating one of the most profound honours of all which is the respect he has amongst musicians he’s worked with, including Stevie Wonder, Prince, Willie Nelson, Lenny Kravitz, Ed Sheeran, Roy Hargrove, and Mavis Staples. I am honestly ecstatic that as of 2021, Batiste has garnered a whopping 14 Grammy nominations.

Enigmatic but with a charisma that somehow combines swagger with modesty, it’s Jon Batiste’s time to bring music back to the people, for the people.

1) What A Wonderful World (from Hollywood Africans) - Batiste’s piano playing was the initial link that drew me to him; his feel moves within a world of harmonics that speak to the heart. 

2) We Are (from We Are) - We inhabit a world of music synonymous with activism; arguably, Batiste is at the forefront of this movement, and man is he a leader! 

3) Coltrane (from We Are) – live for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert - You can always realise the genius of a musician from record to the stage. Batiste is a compelling example constantly reinventing his own music to live audiences; much like his jazz ancestors, always improvising to the vibe of each setting. 

4) Let God Lead – Jon Batiste and Stay Human - “Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom” – Charlie Parker. Yes indeed. 

5) Nocturne No. 1 in D Minor - Duke Ellington was the first pianist for me to set the record straight when it came to uniting the virtuosity of classical and its long-lost cousin, jazz. 

6 ) St. James Infirmary (from Hollywood Africans) – live on the Stephen Colbert Show - ‘St. James Infirmary’ is not just a blues song: it’s a tale of injustice, racial and social, a woeful tale of trying to make amends with grief and wallowing in a path that leads to a state of chaos so great it’s almost unbearable. 

7 ) Language – from Tori Kelly with Jon Batiste (live, unrehearsed) - To quote Batiste himself: “Let’s create something we haven’t rehearsed; it’s music after all.” 

8) It’s Alright (from Pixar Motion Picture Soul, featuring Celeste) - Let’s add film composing credits to Batiste’s infinite accomplishments. Batiste earned the Oscar for Best Original Score with Soul. 

9) I Need You (from We Are) - Another track from Batiste’s Grammy-nominated album We Are, ‘ I Need You’ should be playing on repeat until this pandemic is over. 

10) My Oh My – Chris Thile feat. Jon Batiste (Live From Here) - Earlier I mentioned jazz and folk go hand in hand for one main reason: they re-interpret stories which we universally share.