May 17, 2017 09:31PM
By Nancy Burns-Fusaro
Sun staff writer
WESTERLY — Jazz luminary Jon Batiste, known around the globe for his talent and charm — and for being the band leader of the “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert — comes to town this week for a Friday night show at the Knickerbocker Music Center.
Batiste will squeeze in a visit in between his CBS responsibilities and his visit to Newport Sunday, where he will address the 2017 Salve Regina graduating class and receive an honorary doctorate.
The celebrated musician and Louisiana native called “one of the most visible jazz musicians of his generation,” by the New York Times, played himself on the HBO series “Treme,” and most recently appeared in Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer.”
Born into a long line of New Orleans musicians, Batiste studied at the Juilliard School, where he received both his undergraduate and masters degrees in piano, and where he formed his band, “Stay Human.”
Most recently, he released an album with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis called “The Music of John Lewis,” which features material written by the late John Lewis, the mastermind of the Modern Jazz Quartet.
Known for the flashmob-style street jams he calls “love riots,” Batiste released several self-produced independent albums, including “MY N.Y.” which was recorded entirely on the street corners and subways of NYC, and “Jazz is Now” featuring his singular approach to jazz standards and jazz composition in the classic piano trio format.
A coveted artist brand ambassador, he is currently featured in ad campaigns for Chase Bank, the Apple Watch, Lincoln Continental and a number of fashion brands, including Polo Ralph Lauren Black Label, Frye, Kate Spade, Jack Spade Barneys, Nordstrom and H&M.
He has worked with people like Bruce Weber and Annie Leibowitz and has been profiled in GQ, Vanity Fair, CR Fashion Book, Esquire, Interview, and Vogue.
In an interview posted on his website, Batiste says he “had a lot of different influences culturally.”
“New Orleans itself is a melting pot: French, English, Caribbean, African, Spanish influences, and more. I went to art school and a very academic private school at the same time, and those two worlds were so different and exposed me to such diverse people,” he says. “So basically, there were just a lot of different people I got to experience growing up.”
When asked how he defines “social music,” Batiste said, “The concept is music that is rooted in jazz and draws on various traditions of American music like blues and gospel, but also today’s music, like drum machines and even samples. We like to put all that in an interactive context and go into the audience, bring them onstage, or even take everyone out on the street. We call those moments love riots, because the energy is so kinetic and big. It’s people coming together who don’t know each other, and it’s so beautiful. That’s social music.”
Batiste has received many awards, such as the inaugural Benny Golson Award from the city of Philadelphia and the American Jazz Museum Lifetime Achievement Award, and is also the upcoming recipient of the Gordon Parks Award.
Batiste will be at the music center Friday for an 8:30 p.m. show Tickets are $20 apiece.