Thirty-three-year-old keyboardist and Louisiana native Jon Batiste has rocketed into public consciousness over the past decade. With a musical education fueled by New Orleans and the Juilliard School, he went from stages and studios to television via the Big Easy-centered HBO series Treme. Since 2015, he’s been musical director for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. And his latest recording, Chronology of a Dream: Live at the Village Vanguard, is the counterpart to his summer release Anatomy of Angels: Live at the Village Vanguard.
Both albums were recorded at the New York venue in the fall of 2018, with Anatomy being as exploratory as Chronology is concise. On the latter’s strutting opening track, “Blacck,” Batiste’s infectious piano and scat singing, the rhythmic lock of bassist Phil Kuehn and drummer Joe Saylor, and the frenetic-to-melodic horns of saxophonists Tivon Pennicott and Patrick Bartley and trumpeter Giveton Gelin create a Crescent City party atmosphere. “Prince” features a second-line rhythmic cadence, accentuated by percussionist Louis Cato’s tambourine and the surging horn section, complete with a stirring Bartley alto solo.
“Kenner,” named for Batiste’s suburban home town, is his solo tour de force. As the audience claps in unison, the pianist showcases incredible two-handed dexterity in a barrel-house performance featuring influences from Professor Longhair to Fats Domino. Another inspiration was trumpeter and former employer Roy Hargrove, whose premature death at age 49 coincided with the first day of this live recording. On Batiste’s “Soulful,” Gelin’s trumpet pays homage in celebratory New Orleans style. Batiste’s late mentor is even quoted in the closing Latin-tinged ode “Ordr.” Amid the leader’s piano and melodica lines, Kuehn’s dancing bass, and Cato’s array of hand drums, Hargrove punctuates his spoken-word remembrance of Batiste by saying, “Every time he took a solo, the whole house would erupt.”
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