I just love this record. This is one of those releases I would have rode on the sound system at my old record store ad infinitum. It is a record of an artist who doesn’t get the love and respect he deserves. Having the opportunity to expose customers to unexpected gems at the store was what it was all about. We were awarded a gold record plaque for how well we worked Maxwell’s debut album, Urban Hang Suite. We received visits and phone calls from Marcus Johnson (Lessons of Love) , Boney James (Trust), Brian Culbertson (Modern Life) among others for our commitment to their records. For a small east Columbus shop we sold over a thousand copies of those Maxwell and Marcus Johnson records. Fond memories.
Batiste’ s record falls into the same vein as those artist’s records. Now the ones I listed had no track record. All debut releases. Batiste does have a track record. Batiste has been the music director on The Late Night with Stephen Colbert since 2015. If you loved Pixar’s Soul, he did all of the music for that. He had a few Grammy nominations prior to WE ARE. The videos I link at the end have millions of views, yet I sense that too many people are sleeping on his genius.
His 2017 rendition of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” has been on my morning meditation playlist for years. It is so lovely.
But, this Verve Records’ record is special. If I ran an urban music store in 2021 I would have sold WE ARE to every person who came in to buy Silk Sonic. It holds up to that record and honestly it is better.
The anthem that is WE ARE. The Motown-esque, TELL THE TRUTH. The soulful wail of “CRY”. Dropping his own spoken word flow all over the place here as on I NEED YOU and WHATCHUTALKINBOUT. BOYHOOD sounding like an Outkast song. MOVEMENT 11 pulling you back into his piano expertise. The funk gem, FREEDOM. Is it any wonder he received eleven Grammy nominations for this album in categories ranging from R&B to Jazz to American Roots?
These two videos convey how infectious and enjoyable Jon Batiste is. Enjoy.