Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Album Review: Jon Batiste - WE ARE

Jon Batiste
**** out of *****

Jon Batiste is an artist who never stops. From leading the band nightly on The Late Show with Stephan Colbert, to playing for social change, to winning Academy Awards with his music for the animated movie Soul, to releasing excellent jazz with one of RtBE's favorite live albums of the decade, Chronology of a Dream. His newest effort WE ARE tries to combine his many sides, talents, inspirations and interests into a thirty eight minute eclectic offering, and the ambitious project blows open the doors on what to expect from Batiste as a solo artist, proving his musical desires know no bounds.

Singing falsetto on the title track the slight neo-soul/funk begins the album bringing in various phases of black music to the forefront, ending with his alma matter with Augustine High School Marching 100. While currently based in New York City, New Orleans is his true spiritual home and the cities past, present and future flows through these tracks.    

The gospel/second line feel of "I Need You" gets the funky beats kicking as the southern hip hop flows out during "Boy Hood" (with fellow New Orleanian's Trombone Shorty and PJ Morton), a homage to town before the lone jazz piano solo offering "Movement 11" recalling the piano greats of the cities past such as Ellis MarsalisJames Booker and Allan Toussaint. "Show Me The Way" name checks his direct influences on this album with everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to the Wu Tag Clan to the Rolling Stones to Nina Simone getting air time while directly affecting the songs. 

Batiste shows off his impressive MC chops with "Whatchutalkinbout" rhyming around jazzy hip hop with supreme confidence. Lyrically Batiste keeps it direct, accessible and overly simple; spouting out variations on all you need is love while getting up, dancing it off and singing out loud. These aren't new thoughts or phrases and Batiste will grow as a lyricist, but during these volatile times the basics are always needed to be reiterated.   

The tunes the jump out the most are when Batiste channels his biggest influence for this record, Stevie Wonder. The slinky Prince-like funk with NOLA horns of "Adulthood", the get down second line feel good jam "Freedom" and direct horn laden goodness of "Tell The Truth" all have Wonder as a direct influence, but Batiste is not quite there yet. These tracks also brought to mind the first solo offerings of Cee-Lo Greene when he broke out of the Goodie M.O.B. and had the whole musical landscape to choose from, huge success followed, and Batiste is well ahead of him on that on that road.  

WE ARE manages to cover a fantastic sonic scope, connecting modern day music to it's roots and it is a clear break through for Batiste as he moves into more pop accentuated pastures. He will surely continue to craft various songs in various styles for various projects with love and joyful passion. 
Support the artist, buy the album, peep some video below:

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