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If it’s New Orleans music, count me in.
Like the food, the music of New Orleans is delectable, enticing, deep, rich … and varied. I’m willing to give it all a try. If it resonates with me, I’ll come back time and time again. And if it ends up being a miss, there’s lots more to try.
So when my wife heard of NOLA native Jon Batiste making an appearance in nearby Iowa City on my birthday, she bought tickets. We weren’t familiar with Batiste, but we were willing to give it a try.
Boy, are we glad we did.
I knew of the Batiste family, which is talented and numerous. But I knew nothing about Jonathan. I learned that after much success in New Orleans, he moved to New York City while still a teen-ager, studying at the Julliard. And my impression of New York jazz was different than that of New Orleans jazz.
If there was a hesitation on my part, it was that I was afraid the music would be a bit staid, a bit too laid back, too “smooth.” I like my NOLA music — like my food — bold and forward.
But Batiste and his band, Stay Human, didn’t disappoint.
And if there were still any doubts that this would be a high energy performance, Batiste played a raucous, pounding version of the classic, “St. James Infirmary” (also on “Social Music” and also more raucous in person than on this video version).
Batiste and his band have a great stage presence, too. He smiles, laughs and engages the audience. They walk to the front of the stage and jam, and they invite audience participation. At one point, they even played with a toddler from the audience walking among the band members.
As they wandered down from the stage to play some songs on the theater floor, Batiste shook our hands. A friend mentioned to him that it was my birthday. He immediately ran back on stage, grabbed his melodica (which he calls a harmonaboard) and played me a quick rendition of “Happy Birthday!” Too cool.
If you get a chance to see Batiste, don’t even hesitate. I know there won’t be an ounce of hesitation on my part next time I get the chance.
♦ ♦ ♦
Here are some other useful links on Batiste:
Wikipedia entry for Jonathan Batiste
Several clips of Batiste on “Treme” in one video
Treme’s Delmond Lambreaux plays “Milenberg Joys” with Batiste on piano
NPR story on Batiste