Jazz extraordinaire Jon Batiste gears up for the release of his upcoming album, WE ARE, with a promise to restore positive energy in our world.
Throughout his career, it feels like Jon Batiste has conquered every field of entertainment. He is a band leader, multi-instrumentalist and television personality, leaving his infectious mark wherever he turns up.
But the music is what’s always been at his core. Growing up in a family surrounded by musicians, Batiste has offered plenty over the years. As part of Stay Human, Batiste leads the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In 2020, Batiste co-composed the original score for Disney Pixar’s Soul movie, winning the award for Best Original Score at this year’s Golden Globe Awards.
With such accolades in his arsenal, there is no better time to top off this chapter with an album. Like many musicians during 2020, Batiste’s upcoming album WE ARE was conceived during the world pandemic and alarming social unrest. From his dressing room at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Batiste wrote and planned the album across a week, while recording it in New York, Los Angeles and in his native New Orleans. As a creative, Batiste is sensitive to his environment. Which is why the recording locations he inhabited during the creation of WE ARE has had an impact on his work.
Batiste’s approach is meticulous. When discussing his process behind Pixar’s Soul soundtrack, he stated how he wanted to “capture chord structures and melodies that felt grounded in the earth of the New York jazz scene” that he experienced as a teenager. It was balanced with an ethereal sound to truly capture the intent of the soundtrack.
Such attention to detail carries onto WE ARE. The album has been preceded by singles “WE ARE”, “I NEED YOU” and “CRY”, laying his signature templates of jazz, soul and blues across the teasers. The music is rooted in black creativity, with Batiste ensuring its roots are maintained in the modern era.
Black culture is part of our DNA. It’s like the air we breathe. The undeniable quality of the culture is something we’ll always struggle with if racism is still part of our mythology.—Batiste on how black creativity is perceived in the music industry
Speaking on the album, Batiste said: “WE ARE is a message of love for humanity, of humble reverence for our past, and of a hopeful future, in which we are the ones who can save us. The art reveals its motive to you. You just have to wait for the Spirit to tell you what it wants.”
With the context of the world in mind, WE ARE possesses a purpose to itself. It is a record that channels positivity, intending to gratify the listener with an uplifting experience to contrast society’s gloomy standstill. The music video for “I NEED YOU” demonstrates this communication of energy and a statement, where Batiste incorporates 1930s Harlem lindy hop dance with modern touches to masterfully bridge two eras of black entertainment together.
Across WE ARE, there are stories to be told. “CRY” is a folk song based on black farmers, taking the context of folk back to black history. Batiste works on such symbolisms that could go deaf to the ears of a casual listener, which is why WE ARE is an album that will require the utmost attention from start to finish.
WE ARE is so expansive of sound. It is a novel, and if you close your eyes it is a movie. You don’t skip chapters or scenes. It goes through all the different parts of the story, and my story is in the middle of it.—Batiste on what to expect from his upcoming album
When it comes to the name of the record, WE ARE is both the question and the answer for anyone who is looking around to be saved and understood. The title is simplistic but genius, allowing the listener to feel a sense of confidence in their identity and feel a part of a cause in this world.
Jon Batiste is known for many ventures. But now is the time to show the world the full capabilities of his artistry.
WE ARE is out on 19/03 by Verve Records.