Performance Saturday, October 12, 2013 | 9 PM

Jon Batiste and Stay Human

Zankel Hall
Equally at home performing in a second line on the streets of New Orleans as in renowned concert halls around the world, Jon Batiste puts his virtuosic piano chops to work with his clever use of the harmonaboard in energetic performances with his band Stay Human.

This concert is part of Late Nights at Zankel Hall.


  • Jon Batiste and Stay Human
    Jon Batiste, Piano and Harmonaboard
    Stay Human
    ·· Eddie Barbash, Alto Saxophone and Washboard
    ·· Ibanda Ruhumbika, Tuba and Trombone
    ·· Joe Saylor, Drums and Tambourine

    Barry Stephenson, Electric Bass and Acoustic Bass
    Jamison Ross, Drums and Percussion

Event Duration

The program will last approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.


  • Jon Batiste

    "I'm always about trying to fill a need with what I do in my artistry," says Jon Batiste, an artist whose ambition is nothing less than to transform the very lives of his listeners. "There is definitely a need in the performing-arts world for a movement to come along that seriously connects with a next-generation audience while still maintaining the timeless artistic objectives present throughout the history of the American music tradition."

    It's a goal Batiste is steadily achieving with every performance, every interview, every song, every album. Those two essential criteria-peerless artistry combined with all the uplifting pleasure of entertainment-exist squarely at the heart of Batiste's musical vision. And they are both fully evident in every exultant note on Social Music, the new album by Batiste and his irrepressible musical collective, Stay Human.

    Both the title of the album and the name of the band are telling. Now a quartet (including Batiste), Stay Human has evolved over the past eight years, running the spectrum from a jazz trio to a quintet to a big band with horns. Social Music reflects that extraordinary range. But in Batiste's view, making such distinctions among styles of music and varieties of sound is helpful but perhaps unnecessary. "The purpose of this music is to bring people together from all walks of life by creating a montage of many different music traditions and playing it with the spirit of inclusiveness," he explains. "That intent is what gives these different styles cohesion, and that's why I decided to call it 'social music.' We are in a technological age, and Social Music aims to reflect that spirit of advancement, collaboration, and connectivity while still remaining 'human.' And Stay Human, then, is a reminder of what connects us all. It's our mantra. With so many ways to communicate at our disposal, we must not forget the transformative power of a live music experience and genuine human exchange. "

    Now 26, Batiste has defined a vision based on the most profound aspects of what has already been a rich artistic journey. He was born in New Orleans into a family whose deep musical heritage is part of the inspiration for the HBO series Treme (in which he has appeared). Over the last decade, he has forged his own artistic path by indelibly fusing himself within the fabric of New York City culture. After attending the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), Batiste moved to New York and graduated from The Juilliard School, earning a master's degree in jazz and classical piano. He has collaborated with the likes of Prince, Cassandra Wilson, Lauryn Hill, Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Buffett, Eve, Lenny Kravitz, ?uestlove, and Asher Roth. He has also recorded extensively, most recently putting out the EP MY NY with Stay Human in 2011, a set that was recorded live in the Manhattan subway system.

    On the rough-and-tumble polyglot streets of New Orleans and New York, Batiste absorbed a musical language that disregards genre distinctions as long as all the musicians are up to the game and everyone is locked in and feeling the inspiration of the moment. At NOCCA and Juilliard, he was solidly grounded in the importance of standards and tradition-the conviction that the best of what has come before us must be kept living and taught to future generations. To further that lofty aim, Batiste often lectures and gives master classes, and he also serves as artistic director at large of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

    But Batiste strongly believes that people must have their minds opened in the streets as well as in schools and museums. "Music always reflects the culture it comes from," he says. "The world is connected more than it has ever been. In such a globally connected world, musicians now have the unique opportunity to express all of the cultural 'mash ups' we are experiencing these days. Akin to the blend of cultures that occurred in early-20th-century New Orleans that led to the birth of jazz, I believe that the world has reached a similar cultural turning point."

    Using Twitter and Facebook to announce their plans, Batiste and Stay Human would ride the New York City subways with their instruments, playing music from many different music traditions and performing at the top of their talent all the while. It was a way to have some fun and to startle people out of their preconceived notions about jazz, about where it's appropriate to listen to music, about what it might mean to hear top-notch players blasting away purely for the purpose of entertaining and connecting with you as you go about your day. Batiste calls these spontaneous efforts to play in nontraditional places "loveriots," and aptly so.

    "If you're going to call it social music, then you have to figure out ways to bring your music to the people," Batiste says. "You want to play for people who might have never considered going to a concert. You want to destroy their stereotypes of what they might think a live music performance is all about. You also want to bring the music to those who might not ever hear it and share the culture with them. Ultimately, it's about breaking down the walls between the musicians and the audience and showing them that we all share the same humanity."

    As strong an album as Social Music is, Batiste believes that live performance is where his vision can most truly be set in motion and realized. His goals are of the highest order. "For me, what we're doing is a calling, bringing people to an understanding that loving one another is how we are called to be," he says. "I want to help people find truth. I can give you a picture. When you go to a show to hear us, the venue is one way when you get there, but when you leave it's totally transformed. It's become almost like a religious ceremony, a communal experience. People leave crying and laughing-there's a buzz. People stand around when it's done because they just don't want to go home. Hopefully this experience will bring them to a greater understanding of the truth."

    -Anthony DeCurtis


    Eddie Barbash

    At 23, Eddie Barbash is one of the most exciting, sought-after young alto saxophonists of his generation. He has performed at major clubs and festivals worldwide, principally as a member of Stay Human, but also as a multi-reed man for drumming legend Chico Hamilton in Chico's sextet, Euphoria. In 2009, he founded The Tres Amigos, a sax-guitar-accordion trio that performs diverse repertoire using close-harmony vocal arrangements and instrumental improvisation. Barbash has performed with a range of artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Terence Blanchard, Paquito D'Rivera, and Kurt Elling. He is a graduate of The Juilliard School.


    Ibanda Ruhumbika

    At 22, Ibanda Ruhumbika is quickly becoming one of the most recognized tuba players in the United States. A native of Athens, Georgia, he has won numerous national and international music competitions, in addition to being featured on several nationwide television and radio broadcasts. Ruhumbika has been a soloist with members of the New York Philharmonic brass section as well as with "The President's Own" Marine Band. Classically trained, he is well versed in jazz and other styles of music. He is a member of Stay Human, where he is helping to revolutionize the role of the tuba in the modern-day jazz ensemble.


    Joe Saylor

    Joe Saylor is quickly being recognized as one of the most dynamic and exciting percussionists. Playing music since the age of three, Saylor has performed with such jazz legend as Roy Hargrove, Wynton Marsalis, Dwayne Dolphin, Steve Wilson, Joe Lovano, Jon Faddis, Slide Hampton, and Ellis Marsalis. An avid advocate of music education, Saylor has conducted jazz-education workshops at many of the country's finest institutions, including Stanford University. In 2010, he was featured in the second season of HBO's hit show Treme, a television series about the lives of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Saylor is a member of Stay Human and a graduate of both the Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School.


    Barry Stephenson

    Barry Stephenson is an in-demand bassist in New Orleans and throughout the southeastern United States. Originally from Miami, he studied at Florida State University with the legendary Marcus Roberts and later attended the Centrum Jazz Workshop on full scholarship. He completed his graduate studies at the University of New Orleans under the tutelage of Roland Guerin, and also participated in the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Residency Program, Ravinia's Steans Music Institute, and the Catskill Jazz Factory. Stephenson has had the honor to swing with such notable musicians as Albert "Tootie" Heath; Wynton, Branford, Ellis, Delfeayo, and Jason Marsalis; Trombone Shorty; and Irvin Mayfield. He also leads the funk band Barry Stephenson's Pocket and the jazz trio Troika. He is currently working on his first album.


    Jamison Ross

    Winner of the 2012 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Award, Jamison Ross is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, and a graduate of Florida State University. Growing up in church as a pastor's son, his love for music is deeply rooted in the feeling of joy. Ross currently resides in New Orleans, where he received his master's in jazz studies. He has participated in the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Residency Program, toured the world with Carmen Lundy's Grammy-winning band, and also worked with Billy Childs, Wynton Marsalis, and Wycliffe Gordon, among others. Ross is currently touring with Henry Butler and Wes Anderson, in addition to Jon Batiste and Stay Human.

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Jon Batiste, Piano

Shannon Effinger on Jon Batiste

It's a tale of two cities revisited. Through music, Jon Batiste finds a deeper connection between New Orleans and New York City that draws from both his personal life and professional career. Born in Kenner, Louisiana, Batiste was surrounded by music from the very beginning. "Due to my family and being from around New Orleans and Kenner, I was definitely more rooted in conserving the jazz tradition," says the 26-year-old pianist. Batiste soon discovered, however, that not too many young people have that kind of unique experience growing up. And as his influences grew and evolved over time, so did his mission.

His latest effort, Social Music, is not only a culmination of Batiste and Stay Human's varied influences, but it also captures the band's larger goal of finding that shared bond among different listeners. "The purpose of Stay Human isn't really about the genre of music that we're playing, but more about bringing people together from all different backgrounds and cultures to share an experience through the power of live music."

Batiste exploits the notion of making it interactive, whether it's grabbing a person from the audience or starting a performance from the street and bringing it into the venue. "You get a real feel for the connectivity for all of the traditions of music (hip-hop, rock 'n' roll, electronica, jazz) and the humanity that connects everybody. It becomes communal, so to speak."

The concept for Social Music dates back to 2009 with the release of an EP sampler entitled The Amazing Jon Batiste!. "At the time, the sound was coming together and I was breaking away from just playing traditional jazz," says Batiste. As the sound grew, so did the number of players involved. What began as a jazz trio would ultimately become a sextet: electric and acoustic bass, two saxophones, drums, and piano.

Robert Glasper and Christian aTunde Adjuah who continue to challenge the notion of what this music can sound like, Batiste still preserves the jazz tradition and draws from his Louisiana roots, largely through his work as the artistic director at large for the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

"That's another really important job for the future of the music," says Batiste. "There aren't a lot of young people in the role of administrator or educator who infuse their community with the tradition of the music. There's no one place, like Harlem or New Orleans once were, where anybody can go to experience or hear jazz—places where the music was incubated to go out and change the world."

—Shannon Effinger has written for NPR Jazz, DownBeat, and other major publications. Born and raised in Brooklyn, she is currently developing her first book on jazz, race, and politics.

This concert and The Shape of Jazz series are made possible by The Joyce and George Wein Foundation in memory of Joyce Wein.
Presented by Carnegie Hall in partnership with Absolutely Live Entertainment LLC.
This performance is part of The Shape of Jazz.