Keyboardist, singer, and composer Jon Batiste is an ebullient and highly eclectic performer with a sound that combines the jazz traditions of his New Orleans home with a vibrant blend of funk, pop, and R&B. Since 2015, Batiste has been the bandleader and musical director for CBS' The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He has toured the globe with his own Stay Human ensemble and issued releases like 2013's chart-topping jazz album Social Music. A member of the esteemed Batiste musical family, he emerged in his teens as a gifted jazz pianist with a strong grasp of the Crescent City jazz and R&B sound. Batiste has busked on street corners, held music clinics worldwide, and managed to draw multitudes to his wide-open, accessible brand of rhythmic swing on virtually any keyboard instrument he chooses, in any genre. Though heralded as a brilliant pianist and organist, his use of the melodica -- which has graced albums by artists ranging from Stevie Wonder and Harry Connick, Jr. to Trombone Shorty -- has become a visible signature of his work. Batiste has earned accolades including Grammy nominations for his rootsy take on "Saint James Infirmary" off 2018's expansive Hollywood Africans and for 2020's Chronology of a Dream: Live at the Village Vanguard. He has also scored films, such as Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer and 2020's animated Pixar movie Soul, the latter of which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score. On the heels of his nomination, Batiste released his stylistically cross-pollinated 2021 album We Are.
Born in 1986 in Kenner, Louisiana, Batiste grew up in a musical family as the nephew of New Orleans musical greats Lionel Batiste and Harold Battiste, and first performed with his relatives in the Batiste Brothers Band. Educated at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, he graduated (along with classmate Trombone Shorty) in 2004. A year later, he released his debut album, 2005's Times in New Orleans, featuring drummer Jason Marsalis, saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr., and trumpeter Christian Scott.
After high school, Batiste studied at the Juilliard School in New York City. It was during this time that he began performing around the city with his trio featuring bassist Phil Kuehn and drummer Joe Saylor. He featured this group on his 2005 album Live in New York: At the Rubin Museum of Art.
Eventually, Batiste added saxophonist Eddie Barbash to his trio, and the ensemble Stay Human was born. Batiste & Stay Human began performing impromptu outdoor concerts and quickly earned acclaim for their lively mix of jazz, gospel, pop, and R&B. The group released their debut EP in 2011, followed by the 2013 full-length album Social Music, which reached the top of the Billboard jazz chart. Also in 2013, Batiste joined Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and bassist/producer Bill Laswell to record the soundtrack to a forthcoming film. While the movie never materialized, the soundtrack the trio recorded was released in 2014 as The Process.
In 2015, Batiste & Stay Human became the house band for the CBS nighttime talk show The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The following year, they issued the Late Show EP, featuring The Late Show's intro and outro themes, as well as live cuts recorded during commercial breaks. The album debuted at number three on the Jazz Albums chart. Later in 2016, the pianist released the holiday album Christmas with Jon Batiste.
Two years later, in the fall of 2018, Batiste issued his debut album for Verve, Hollywood Africans. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, the record found Batiste diving deep into his personal and cultural heritage, weaving an intimate tapestry from original material and American standards, creating a musical journey from early New Orleans jazz to the jazz and pop of the present day. The set peaked at number two on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart and earned Batiste a Grammy nomination for Best American Roots Performance for his rendition of "Saint James Infirmary."
In August 2019, he returned with Anatomy of Angels: Live at the Village Vanguard, which captured Batiste in concert during his 2018 residency at the storied New York City venue. Featured alongside the pianist were guests including Lake Street Dive vocalist Rachael Price, tenor saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, trumpeter Jon Lampley, and others. A companion album culled from Batiste's Vanguard residency, Chronology of a Dream: Live at the Village Vanguard, followed that October.
Meditations, a collaboration with guitarist Cory Wong, arrived in May 2020 and picked up a Grammy nomination for Best New Age Album. The next month, Batiste released the song "We Are," inspired by the Black Lives Matter protest movement. Later that year, he contributed songs to the animated Disney-Pixar film Soul (which also featured music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) and released a companion album, Music from and Inspired by Soul. In March 2021, Soul earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score. That same month, Batiste issued the studio album We Are, which featured guest appearances by Mavis Staples, author Zadie Smith, PJ Morton, Trombone Shorty, and others.
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