Jon Batiste / Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Central Park Summerstage – June 29, 2014
While I’m not always crazy about how the Summerstage logistics affect both my personal comfort and access to sketching, for this one I just plastered myself against the fence in the front row (standing) and didn’t bother to curse the heat or anything else. Hypnotic Brass is pure non-stop high energy, mixing rap with jazzy brass riffing. The lineup is not static; apparently they are now tuba-less, and for this gig they had both a traps drummer and conga player, as well as an electric bass player. The (half-) brothers use a few different aliases, so for annotations I just went with the names that they present on their web site. Jon Batiste is turning into one of the big dogs of jazz in town, but one would need an expanded definition of jazz to describe what he and his group (Stay Human) are doing; they veer off in various rootsy and N’Awlins-y digressions, and are then herded back (sometimes abuptly) under his direction; he also did a solo Star-Spangled Banner that wasn’t quite Hendrix, but I’m not sure Francis Scott Key would have gone along. The key word for these guys is “play” and they know what to do with their toys. One of which is Batiste’s harmonabord (depicted), which I’ve known as melodica. For their finale, in Crescent City style, they meandered through the audience, bolstered in part by additional horn players, and tailed off without returning to the stage. When I asked him what kind of music his group played, Batiste’s response was “social music”. Miracle of miracles, I got autographs from every player that I sketched (I’ve never gotten any from Summerstage), although the wait for Batiste’s was perhaps a good half-hour.