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Jon Batiste busts out on Hollywood Africans / offBEAT

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It doesn't concern Jon Batiste if some people tend to put him in a particular musical box. "That's okay, I always break 'em," declares the pianist, vocalist and composer who leads his Stay Human band nightly on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." Those who know Batiste solely through his television persona see a gregarious, always smiling, stylishly dressed and extremely talented young man whose job seems to be keeping the music upbeat and in sync with the show's comedic host. As a bandleader he also does some singing, too, usually in the mix with his group.

Batiste, 32, was purposeful in taking a different direction on his new album release, Hollywood Africans, his first on the prestigious Verve label. The music-and even the album's cover, which captures him in a contemplative pose-could best be described as serene. For the most part, Batiste is alone at the piano or backed by minimal instrumentation or other voices. "I think the people whom I've come in contact with over the last couple of years seemed like they needed a bit of a break or a bit more peace of mind," Batiste explains. "The music is meditative and it gives you space for reflection but it's also very hopeful. I think there's a void in music like that, especially in the mainstream. The feedback has been amazing so I think my instinct was fairly accurate. There is always so much stimulus, especially with the political divisiveness of these times, and things that you just deal with on a daily basis."

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