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 donâ€™t go out of my way for it, but Jon Batiste and Stay Human have properly shamed me.
From the storm-backed piano introduction â€œD-Flat Movement,â€ I was hooked. Social Music isnâ€™t your grandparentsâ€™ jazz, though it pays every respect to the grand tradition. â€œLet God Leadâ€ is pure New Orleans with a bit of hip hop sensibility tied in with the competing calls of â€œlet God leadâ€ and â€œlet love lead.â€
Short pieces like â€œThe Jazz Man Speaks (Maple Leaf Rag)â€ (featuring a verbal manifesto from legendary Jelly Roll Morton) and â€œLonely Cry in Manhattanâ€ show off the bandâ€™s traditional jazz chops, but these are clearly innovative players with a vision. No track exemplifies this better than the sprawling â€œSt. James Infirmary.â€ 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 tragicâ€”as the best music is wont to be.