Jon Batiste and Stay Human: Social Music
Confession: I enjoy old films, consider myself a lover of all genres of music, and even work in an art deco building, but I do not listen to much jazz. I just don’t go out of my way for it, but Jon Batiste and Stay Human have properly shamed me.
From the storm-backed piano introduction “D-Flat Movement,” I was hooked. Social Music isn’t your grandparents’ jazz, though it pays every respect to the grand tradition. “Let God Lead” is pure New Orleans with a bit of hip hop sensibility tied in with the competing calls of “let God lead” and “let love lead.”
Short pieces like “The Jazz Man Speaks (Maple Leaf Rag)” (featuring a verbal manifesto from legendary Jelly Roll Morton) and “Lonely Cry in Manhattan” show off the band’s traditional jazz chops, but these are clearly innovative players with a vision. No track exemplifies this better than the sprawling “St. James Infirmary.” Delicate vocals and piano set the tone in the first minute only for that wonderful saxophone to kick in insistently. Everything shifts over to powerful blues as Batiste sings about coping with the loss of a loved one.
Social Music is an album for those with true love for instruments, who want to hear fresh vocals to go along with perfectly balanced piano, saxophone, tuba, and percussion. This album is fun, beautiful, and a bit tragic—as the best music is wont to be.