One purpose of a jazz review, at least from this writer’s perspective, is to invite readers into a musical experience that is so extraordinary that audiences will want to see it or hear it for themselves. The use of flowery or peppery adjectives, depending on the tone and flavor of the experience, help bring the music to life, adding splashes of color to a black and white dictation. Even though the writer has already identified the music as extraordinary, he/she has to, at least, appear to be unbiased, adding a few shortcomings to balance out the review. Every now and then; however, a musician moves beyond extraordinary and leaves a writer speechless. Pianist Jonathan Batiste is one such musician.
He and his quartet performed two shows last night at Bohemian Caverns before capacity crowds, turning us upside down and shaking us free of our preconceptions about how this music should be played, what the music should sound like, what it should be called, whether it’s alive or dead, and how we should listen to it. By the time he turned us all loose, we only wanted to hear more. And, for the record, it was jazz. Pure, soul-to-soul, straight from New Orleans to New York and back to New Orleans again, jazz; and it was fantastic.
There weren’t any pop or hip hop licks added (at least not during the part of the show I was able to attend), but that didn’t stop people from getting up out of their seats and dancing to the music. During the minute or two that Batiste transitioned into classical music, the room didn’t become “museum” level stuffy. When he spoke and sang, his words did not float over heads or isolate (except for maybe the two brave souls who cheered wildly when Batiste asked if anyone was from Indiana, Pennsylvania). When he made his way from the piano to the drum kit during the encore to play along with his drummer, he was well aware of his bandmates and only seemed to do what enhanced what they were already playing.
All that said, there’s not a word in the dictionary that will fully prepare you for the musical experience that Jonathan Batiste will give you, so go see it for yourself. There are still tickets available to tonight’s 10:30pm show (the 8:30pm show is sold out), so don’t hesitate. Get down there now and be prepared to have the time of your life!
Show time 10:30pm (Saturday, November 17, 2012); Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street N.W (on the corner of 11th and U St), Washington, DC; tickets: $25 in advance ($30 at the door, but don’t chance it). For online purchases, go to: http://www.instantseats.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=buy.event&eventID=B15F9305-B266-72F3-7060DCBBE4F79EEF
For Jonathan Batiste’s tour schedule, look for him on Facebook or Twitter.