Before pianist Jon Batiste and Stay Human take the stage, they like to take root in the community where they’re performing.
“That’s the most important part,” says Batiste, 26, who aims to “bring in people together through the spirit of the music.”
Batiste and his ensemble are doing just that this week in Port Washington, holding multiple workshops at Weber Middle School and Schreiber High School. And on Thursday, the band – which recently released its new album, Social Music – performs at Landmark on Main Street.
Born and raised in a legendary New Orleans jazz family, Batiste, now calls New York home, serving as the artistic director at large of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. He earned his Masters and undergraduate degrees at The Juilliard School, where he was trained in classical music and jazz, and also dabbled a bit in acting, which may account for his larger-than-life presence, both on and off-stage.
Band members – all of them attended Juilliard – include Joe Saylor on the drums, Ibanda Ruhumbika on tuba and Eddie Barbash on alto sax.
Stay Human is known to take to the streets of New York – or for that matter, any community they're visiting – for an impromptu performance. And even the walls of a theater can’t confine them. The last time Stay Human was at the Landmark, it ditched the confines of the stage at the concert's end, opting instead to perform encores in the lobby, leaving audience members to wander out, enjoy a little more music and mingle with the band.
Asked about last year's encore, Batiste laughed, noting, “I want folks to have a good time, leaving with something they didn’t have before they came.”
Editor's note: A grant from the Port Washington Education Foundation made possible the Jon Batiste and Stay Human workshops in Port Washington schools.