The New Orleans-born keyboard player and band leader took his band and the studio audience outside during his appearance last night on "The Colbert Report."
When I interviewed Jon Batiste in advance of his appearance at Jazz Fest earlier this year, I wrote:
Although his current career is New York-based, New Orleans shaped his music in intentional and unintentional ways. “The Stay Human lineup coincidentally resembles a second line,” Batiste says, but the tambourine playing of Joe Saylor on Social Music’s “Express Yourself,” “Naima’s Love Song” and much of My N.Y. owes a very direct, deliberate debt to Mardi Gras Indians. “That tradition is one of the only traditions you can draw from inside of America outside of the Afro-American church,” he says. “You can go to Brazil and there are different ways that they play the tambourine. You can go to countries that have used the tambourine as a sacred instrument over the years, but that kind of backbeat, bamboula-based rhythm that you hear in the gospel church and Mardi Gras Indians - I’m always pulling from that.”
Last night, those street music roots were on display when Batiste and Stay Human played The Colbert Report and took their version of "Express Yourself" first in the crowd, then into the streets followed by Colbert and the studio audience. The sequence was joyous in a way that television rarely is, and even if New Yorkers aren't practiced at joining a street parade or performance, it's clear they connected to Batiste and the moment.
When we talked, we discussed the significance of the title of his recent album, Social Music.
The title reflects his notion of his music as something defined by its circumstances, not by formal or musical characteristics. “We’re in the era now where things are more connected than they’ve ever been,” he says. “Socially we’re more integrated, and the cultures are more one in a global sense than they’ve ever been before. Music reflects what the culture is doing.”
In his interview with Colbert, he covered the same ground at greater length, sparring playfully.