I have a weakness for the piano that not even some cowbell can cure. I can’t play, but my children take lessons from Brother Ryan Ellis. I have my favorites, my playlists and, like anyone else, mine have their esoteric elements.
It may have started years ago with Robert Schumann, but it has run through dozens of others, including classical, jazz, soul and pop — Keith Jarrett, Esbjörn Svensson, Herbie Hancock, Ramsey Lewis, Dave Brubeck, Bob James, Brian Jackson, George Duke, McCoy Tyner, Yann Tierson, Marian McPartland, Donny Hathaway, Keith Emerson, Donald Fagan, Todd Rundgren, Brenda Russell, Stevie Wonder, Thom Yorke, Alicia Keys, Vijay Iyer, Aaron Parks, Robert Glasper, Josei.
Perhaps you think that’s quite a sprawling, undisciplined list, but all of us could compose long lists of what we adore if given 15 minutes, Discogs and Wikipedia, which is where I went to get the rundown on Jonathan Batiste, who will bring us his own funky brand of N’Awlins with his Stay Human Band. I gave a few cuts a listen and, after hearing St. James Infirmary, here I am ticklin’ the keyboard myself.
On Saturday, March 8 at 8 p.m., young brother Batiste and his boys will grace us with their presence at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, which has been on quite a roll recently with Kurt Elling’s stellar performance and Take 6, among others.
Batiste should continue the string of successes there as, obviously, somebody at the county’s Department of Cultural Affairs is doing something right. SMDCAC is a great facility in need only of a better acronym and permission to jaywalk across Southwest 211th Street; all else there is running beautifully.
Batiste has a deeply rooted New Orleans history and the Julliard pedigree to boot. He travels with the likes of Spike Lee, utilizes the Hot 8 style tuba, visited Sundance, killed’em at Newport and has punched fewer than 30 years on the life clock. No disrespect, but the kid is just getting started. Stay Human is a young band filled with young people listening to young people’s music; the show will be progressive.
Fifty years ago, the Beatles began something which quickly turned into a brilliant onslaught of young men schooled on their parents’ stereos and reinventing blues and music like Georgio Rapicavoli reinterpreting chicken and waffles; it set off a wave of creativity. I suspect Batiste has learned heaps from his New Orleans family tree, though some of what has become standard music fare these days is survival fodder – tastes of a perfunctory, obligatory hip-hop with glibly spoken words.
Concerning his legit chops for the piano, Jon Batiste will cover a lot of ground. Listening to 2013’s Social Music reveals a variety of interests — classic, contemporary, sweet, funky and wholesome — all getting fair shares. The Star Spangled Banner is even represented. As a result, I predict another fresh, springtime voyage through an hour or two of jazzy joints sure to satisfy and tickle all the right keys.