Ingrid Hertfelder/Courtesy of the artist
Jonathan Batiste's set spans traditional tunes, some Monk-inspired stride and his original compositions.
Jonathan Batiste's set spans traditional tunes, some Monk-inspired stride and his original compositions. Ingrid Hertfelder/Courtesy of the artist
"New Orleans Blues" (F.J. LaMothe)
Medley: "In My Solitude" (D. Ellington, I. Mills, E. DeLange) / "Round Midnight" (T.S. Monk)
"Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (A. Von Tilzer)
"Township" (J. Batiste)
"Jen's Blues" (J. Batiste)
"Body and Soul" (J. Green, E. Heyman, R. Sour, F. Eyton)
"What a Wonderful World" (B. Thiele, G. Weiss)
Breakout young pianist, composer and bandleader Jonathan Batiste hails from one of Louisiana's most distinguished musical families. The 24-year-old Juilliard graduate has already played two of the most famous venues in the world — Carnegie Hall in New York and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam — and performed during the halftime show of the 2008 NBA All-Star Game alongside Louisiana legends Allen Toussaint, Harry Connick Jr., Dr. John, Ellis Marsalis, Art Neville and Ivan Neville. He has also worked with artists such as Cassandra Wilson, Abbey Lincoln, Roy Hargrove, Lenny Kravitz, Derek Trucks and Jimmy Buffett.
On this episode of Piano Jazz, Batiste brings his unique piano-voicing vocal cords to a set of standards and originals with guest host Jon Weber.
Batiste goes straight to the source in his first tune: Jelly Roll Morton's "New Orleans Blues." His left hand holds down the authentic stride rhythm, proof that young student Batiste wasn't sleeping on those early lessons back in Louisiana. He adds his own ornamentation and flavor through use of the sustain pedal.
"Yes, indeed," Batiste says. "The stride and ragtime guys had a strong sense of rhythm, harmony, time and melody — it's incredible to listen to and to play."
Batiste follows with a beautiful medley of Duke Ellington's "In My Solitude" and Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight." The delicate opening has a classical leaning that would do Duke proud. As "Round Midnight" kicks in, Batiste takes the tune into the upper register with a sparkling, impressionistic take on the melody. He clearly has absorbed not only late-19th-century ragtime, but also European Impressionist music of the time. Batiste's style is complex yet never overwrought, even understated; it's a very mature sound from a young man making a big splash on today's jazz scene; he forgoes youthful bravado in favor of focusing on the music. However, Batiste is an electric live performer — check out the Piano Jazz session at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, which aired earlier this year.
No stranger to composing and recording, Batiste released two albums by the time he was 17. Here, he performs two originals: "Township" and "Jen's Blues." The first tune is a contemporary groover, while "Jen's Blues" settles into a down-home mood with Batiste's subtle embellishment.
This session closes by circling back to where it began, with a tune from another preeminent figure in New Orleans jazz: Louis Armstrong. Batiste duets with Weber in "What a Wonderful World," and can't help but lend his own tender vocals to a tune that, along with "When the Saints," stands as the "Star Spangled Banner" of New Orleans music.
Originally recorded Nov. 12, 2010. Originally broadcast Jan. 25, 2011.