If you were to try to categorize the music of New Orleans native Jon Batiste and his band, Stay Human, you’d probably come up with a long, hyphenated term like jazz-swing-funk-fusion, or some variation on that.
But Batiste prefers another name: social music. He and the band have performed everywhere from crowded subway cars to Carnegie Hall, and now, to the Newport Jazz Festival.
Eddie Barbash, alto saxophone. He tweets at @EddieBarbash.
Ibanda Ruhumbika, tuba. He tweets at @IbandaTuba.
Joe Saylor, percussion. He tweets at @JoeSaylorTweets.
Jamison Ross, percussion. He tweets at @Jamison_Ross.
Barry Stephenson, bass. He tweets at @BassicallyYours.
On what “social music” is:
Jon Batiste: “Social music is music for people to listen to and dance to, cry, laugh — as long as you ain’t hurting anybody then it’s all within the creative context. It’s music to be shared, and it comes from all different influences. It’s really just about bringing people together.”
On performing in a wide variety of places:
JB: “You gotta bring the music to people. Because some people don’t have the access to it, be it financially or exposure to the music or what have you. They just don’t ever get exposed to it, so we’ve gotta bring the music to them.”
On how this generation listens to music:
JB: “We’re in an era that’s marked by instant access to information at the touch of a button. Mass communication. And culturally, we’re more integrated than we’ve ever been in the history of the world. Music always reflects the culture that it comes from. And artists — I feel like we really haven’t figured out how to react to all of this yet. But the music that people listen to, even on their iPods, goes from genre to genre, style of music to style of music, era to era. And people don’t even think about it. So a genre-less style of music, that isn’t biased to one music tradition or another, but it’s more about drawing from everything. Just complete freedom.”
On what “love riots” are:
JB: “Love riots are what we consider to be the moment that happens when you have all of these people in one place, and maybe they know each other, a lot of times they don’t, but for whatever happens, the musical experience brought them together and there’s a kinetic energy and everybody just kind of celebrated and there’s this cathartic release that seems like it could go on for hours and hours — and usually it does.”
On having deep musical roots in New Orleans:
JB: “I grew up in a musical family. My father is a musician, I have seven uncles and there was a band that they formed about 40 years ago or more in New Orleans. The Batiste brothers band. That was my first exposure to music. I have many cousins that play music. It’s always the males — the women in the family are all in pharmacies, like pharmacy or music. So I didn’t even know about studying music or being a professional musician, it was just something that was around, I guess it was in the atmosphere, so to speak. You kind of become a musician, I think, because it’s in your heart and you love it, but I was always around it and I loved it. But I didn’t think, you know, ‘I’m going to be a musician’ until I was in New York. I was 17, I’d moved to New York in 2004 to form the band and at that point I was doing it, you know? That was kind of my beginnings.”
On getting new musical ideas in New York:
JB: “It’s a global city, there’s a lot going on there. And if you talk about social music, think about 160 cultures in one place, on top of each other. And that kind of mix, that mash-up, so to speak, is something that’s definitely influenced this sound.”
- “Pianist Jonathan Batiste was born and raised in New Orleans as part of the Batiste jazz family dynasty there. He was playing with the family band by age 8. Eventually he took his talents to Julliard, and that’s where he met the rest of Stay Human: Joe Saylor on the drums, Ibanda Ruhumbika on tuba and Eddie Barbash on alto sax.”
- “Batiste plays, in his words, “social music”–a blend of New Orleans style jazz rooted in gospel and the blues updated with bebop runs and contemporary funk licks. The playing is deeply proficient, but never in service to itself–Batiste and his band are built to perform before an audience and leave them wanting more.”
This segment aired on July 29, 2014.