A Little Bit of Soul

by Marlia Nash
Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste is a music genius, no doubt. Everything he has to offer to you, musician or not, is worth listening to. Last week, WMUC got the chance to hear Batiste talk about his new project WE ARE, his next studio album to be released this month. While also talking about his extensive music education background, he shared his recent incredible work on Disney’s Soul, a bit about working on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and discussed life’s most pressing questions.

His authentic energy, truthfully, was palpable and I could even feel it in my cinder block dorm, which offers terrible reverb. Batiste had a lot to share and with every answer, he had an improv piano riff to accompany him, making him by far the most interesting person I’ve met. His unique experiences growing up in Louisiana led him to pursue a meaningful and different musical journey. Inspired by Monday night red beans and rice and a tri-cultural mix of traditions, Batiste’s background was something to be proud of. He revealed that sometimes he’s had to unlearn a few things here and there as the South has got a lot of negative perceptions, calling it the Great Unlearning. But, his unique self is perfectly acceptable as is.

It is no secret that Batiste’s role in Disney's Soul was not a small one. We discussed how Pixar and Disney would execute the portrayal of a realistic jazz musician by mimicking the way Batiste played for others. In fact, the very opening of Soul features Joe Gardiner’s improv on the piano in the middle school band room. This very action was directly inspired by Batiste, verbatim. He even revealed that seeing this in the movie was a shock to him. But, from an audience’s perspective, it added authenticity to the lead character. Batiste discussed what it was like composing the film score, finding a celestial-soul jazz combo, the importance of music education, and finding one’s purpose in life. He also shared his thoughts on the movie’s theme about whether your passion should dictate your life. He encourages listening to your heart and cautions that the mind will do everything it can to keep you safe, even lying.

So, this studio album that I am certain you’re pumped about. What should you expect? Expect it to have no genre. Expect it to tell many stories; a novel to read with your eyes open and a movie with your eyes closed. Expect this to be about honest and raw black stories. Some belong to Batiste and many belong to others. It is authentic and offers a lot to the listener, without boundaries.

If you haven’t already, seriously, check out Soul. If you’re a musician, yes, but especially if you’re human. And be ready to listen to Batiste’s WE ARE, available on March 19th, 2021. He has a lot to offer to you and you’ve seriously been missing out.