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Play It Again Jon: "Hollywood Africans" by Jon Batiste Album Release

Like balancing a coffee, bagel, smartphone and laptop bag all while holding onto a subway pole and standing clear of the closing doors, part of the New Yorker's modus operandi seems to be how well they can appear unimpressed.  Some of us get lost in our newspapers, become binge-watching zombies glued to our phones and some, like me, lose themselves in their headphones letting their playlists create a soundtrack to their day and be a rival to the noisy Metropolis.  How interesting that on hectic days afterwork many of us need the sounds of something soothing and relaxing while on our way to a night on the town we may substitute that easy listening for some thumping dubstep.  What we plug into our ears takes us away, if only for a while, and somehow gives us the hope through chord and crescendo that where we have taken our minds to is not that far off from reality.  

I think of this when I think of jazz.  The creative distortion of classical instruments, in the hands of the oppressed and the maligned created a unique musical voice in order to cope, express and communicate their cry, their message and their worth.  The beautiful discords, the irreverent tempos, the enigmatic segues and the brooding breakdowns all conspire to create an experience that in one song can take you from feeling dreary to feeling quite optimistic.  Enter Jon Batiste, who last Thursday rounded out a day of ups, downs, ins and outs for me with a release party for his new album  Hollywood Africans".  

What Mr. Batiste does to those piano keys along with the honey-coated vibrato of his voice conjures up a splendid harmony of instruments both man-made and nature-made.  He is a talented musician who understands and most of all respects what music's past has created for him.  With that, he creates homages and sounds that not only add to our soundtracks but also gives hope that talent and passion are not dead.  Hollywood Africans explores Batiste's jazzy, haunting, relaxing and moody sound through remakes of classics like "What A Wonderful World" and "The Very Thought Of You" along with moody and reflective new gems like "Don't Stop" and "Is It Over".  What struck me as I listened to Mr. Batiste's set that night was how the musical perspective of someone who is talented and driven can make the problematic and the tense seem manageable and more at ease.  I guess that's the sweet satisfaction that when we plug in to tune out sometimes we can discover the best reasons to tune in.  

Hollywood Africans is out now and available on and the iTunes store.

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