Musician and band leader Jon Batiste is a youthful, vibrant performer from Louisiana who was caught up in the jazz world at a young age. Now, as he occupies the role of Associate Artistic Director at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, Batiste still takes time to tour with his band Stay Human, to connect with followers and to earn new fans along the way. And by connect with followers, I mean more than simply the “followers” that are found on social media or who buy his albums, I mean the folks who will literally trail Batiste as he conducts a musical procession from the stage to the street.
Batiste’s free show at the Central Park Summerstage was a wild set that delved into all sorts of jazz, hip-hop, R&B and other musical influences, including a rendition of the folk staple “Saint James Infirmary”. One of the first recognizable inspired bits was a take on “Summertime”, recently famous by the band summertime favorites Sublime but really hailing back to Gershwin and Ella Fitzgerald. The opening extended medley saw Batiste step away from the stately Yamaha grand piano and lift up the much cheaper, branded plastic melodica of his as the band stood behind him. The members of Stay Human clearly share Batiste’s sensibilities and have fun with their performances, whipping up familiar pop music melodies during solos and preening like showmen on stage.