Jon Batiste: the jazz master set to serenade Macron
An artist’s artist with elastic talent and high-octane charisma, the world-class jazzman Jon Batiste will cap off his banner year Thursday by performing at President Joe Biden’s first White House state dinner.
The effervescent musician — who cleaned up at the Grammys in April — will headline the crown jewel of Washington’s holiday social season, a lavish meal hosted by Biden and wife Jill in honor of visiting French leader Emmanuel Macron.
“An artist who transcends generations, Jon Batiste’s music inspires and brings people together,” said the first lady’s press secretary Vanessa Valdivia.
“We’re thrilled to have him perform at the White House for the first state dinner of the Biden-Harris Administration.”
The musical talent and artistic vision of Batiste, the scion of a prominent New Orleans musical dynasty, have made him an industry mainstay for years, with a prodigious body of work and an eye towards social justice.
He’s also long been a red carpet regular, flashing his megawatt smile and hamming for photographers.
But until recently he wasn’t particularly well-known outside music world circles, perhaps best recognized among Americans for his role as the bandleader on Stephen Colbert’s popular late night comedy show.
That all changed in April at the Grammys, where Batiste won five trophies, the most of the night, including the prestigious Album of the Year prize for “We Are.”
And now he’ll bring his musical chops to one of Washington’s most glamorous affairs.
“From Kenner to the White House,” Batiste posted on Instagram this week, referring to the New Orleans suburb he was born in. The artist’s father, a bassist, will accompany him during the set.
– ‘Spiritual practice’ –
The 36-year-old Batiste has recorded with legendary artists including Stevie Wonder, Prince and Willie Nelson.
The piano virtuoso is also the creative director of Harlem’s National Jazz Museum, and in recent years took home an Oscar, Golden Globe and a BAFTA for co-composing the soundtrack of Pixar’s animated hit “Soul” with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
He’s dubbed music his “spiritual practice,” producing work spanning medium and genre from R&B to jazz to contemporary classical.
Batiste began playing drums and other percussion instruments as a child with his family, which includes a long line of gospel and jazz artists.
He switched to the piano as a pre-teen, releasing his debut album “Times in New Orleans” in 2005.
Batiste graduated from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts in 2004, before going on to attend New York’s prestigious Juilliard school.
He and his band Stay Human secured the high-profile “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” gig starting in 2015, bringing his music to millions of eyes each weeknight.
In recent years, Batiste has emerged as an advocate, notably taking part in June 2020’s Juneteenth celebration in Brooklyn as protests raged over the police murder of a Black man, George Floyd.
In March 2021, he released “We Are,” his eighth studio album, which he has said he put together largely prior to the mass protests as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, but whose content offered prescient messages of hope and community.
A genre-spanning effort that fuses jazz with soul, hip-hop, pop and R&B, Batiste has called the record “a culmination of my life to this point.”