Jon Batiste is a young jazz lion who comes through like the spirit of New Orleans even when he’s playing piano on a grey, drizzly day in Harlem –a true scion of both the purest NOLA tradition and Miles Davis‘ brilliantly anti-purist tradition of “social music.” So when we decided to make our own pilgrimage down to the Big Easy not long ago, there was no better place we could’ve imagined finding ourselves than in the front row of a private concert from Batiste and his ensemble Stay Human in an empty New Orleans jazz club. (We also found ourselves in the front seat next to Mannie Fresh on our way to a tricked-out car and horse rally but that was just beyond imagination–and a story for another day!).
As it happened, our wildest jazz dreams were made reality when we linked with Batiste and Stay Human at Cafe Istanbul. Earlier that day he rocked a huge crowd at the Jazz Fest and was feeling very overwhelmed and touched to have played to such a big crowd in his hometown. We basically snuck into Stay Human’s soundcheck at Cafe Istanbul and knocked out this Okay Acoustic on-camera session just as a small crowd of early birds began to shuffle in–you can hear their applause in the background–capturing an intimate performance of Batiste’s original composition “San Spirito” which he slowly conjured into a cover of “Killing Me Softly,” looking every inch the magician he is in his glittering jacket under the crimson and purple lights. In case you had any doubts that Stay Human was covering Lauryn Hill/The Fugees–as opposed to Roberta Flack–Batiste and disciples weave in a few chords of Enya‘s haunting contribution to “Ready Or Not” before drawing for the melodica to bring the composition 360’ back home. Truly a goosebump moment–immortalized here for Okay Acoustic! Watch below and hit the link to get the backstory on Batiste via Revive: