Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Album Review: Jon Batiste - Anatomy of Angels: Live at the Village Vanguard

Jon Batiste 
Anatomy of Angels
*** out of *****

The first of two live albums from Jon Batiste recorded during his 2018 six night residency at The Village Vanguard in New York City, Anatomy of Angels captures Batiste and his band as they move through elegant passages of sound and scope. 

Opening with his original composition "Creative" finds Batiste leading things as his Stay Human bassist Phillip Kuehn and drummer Joe Saylor support in acoustic trio fashion.  The tune shows Batiste elegant piano leads before shaking stomp breaks, complete with tambourine shakes, lively up the number.

The first guest is invited to sing on a version of Ray Noble's classic "The Very Thought of You" as Lake Street Drive's Rachael Price delivers the standard in a smooth and understated manner. The torch song breaks up the rivers of flowing piano keys and adds a different dynamic to the short record. 

Unlike some of Batiste other offerings, or his Late Show television theatrics, Anatomy of Angels is old school jazz (no R&B or hip hop here) in the vein of his musical idol Thelonious Monk. Batiste pays tribute to Monk's style with his own tune "Dusk Train To Doha" before expanding his band to an eight piece and tackling Monk's own "Round Midnight" with grace and power.   

The extra players (trumpeters Giveton Gelin and Jon Lampley, saxophonists Patrick Bartley and Tivon Pennicott) stick around for the most successful effort, the adventurous and flowing title number. After a blissful start a flurry of keys begins to quicken the pace as tempos shift and adjust around the excellent drumming and trumpet work. The most natural and exciting number presented on this live album.

Even with an expanded band Batiste remains the focal point, as his piano runs are loud and constantly moving, giving the supporting players the notes to rally around. Batiste easily slips into the role of bandleader, and after his huge Hollywood Africans release this lighter throwback live album is a mellow listen. 
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

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