Pianist and late-night television bandleader Jon Batiste has released his latest solo album, WE ARE, out today (3/19) via Naht Jona/Verve Label Group. The 13-track album is Batiste’s first full-length studio effort since 2018’s Hollywood Africans, in addition to his 2020 Grammy-nominated Meditations collaboration EP with Cory Wong.
WE ARE includes the previously-shared single “I NEED YOU”, and brings to mind the Batiste-led “WE ARE” protest in New York City last June, where the musician was joined by his fellow New Yorkers to confront police brutality and racial injustice following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of cops.
WE ARE notably features guest contributions from PJ Morton and Trombone Shorty on the track “BOY HOOD”; the Hot 8 Brass Band on “ADULTHOOD”; Zadie Smith on “SHOW ME THE WAY”; and the St. Augustine High School Marching Band, the Gospel Soul Children’s Choir, David, Brennan, and Braedon Gautier, Craig Adams, and Autumn Rowe on “WE ARE”.
“I like to use the inspiration from the past and combine it with the things that are in the present to create the future,” Batiste said in a statement about the album. “We’re finally at a point where we’re starting to untangle the way that my grandparents, and even my parents, experienced America. It feels like the culmination in the coming of age of what many generations have built, fought for and poured into.”
Batiste also noted in regards to today’s album release being the same day as his late grandmother’s birthday,
The album’s five pillars are lineage, authenticity, excellence, evolution and synthesis – all filtered through my sensibility of love, joy and community. She represents all of what the music represents. I’m sure she is watching over us now. We can’t chart the course to where WE ARE going unless we know who WE ARE. The music is sonically a major artistic achievement for me, at times able to be traditional and modern all at once, paying homage to the heroes of the black cultural diaspora while bringing their contributions forward in new ways. I’m drawing inspiration from the past and blending it with things of the present in order to create the future. We created this music meticulously to inspire all of humanity across the globe to tap into the metaphysical realm of our existence. This album is out everywhere and will elevate you if you plug into it. It’s meant to be listened to as one piece, akin to a novel where you wouldn’t skip chapters. Or like a movie that you watch in your minds-eye. It’s not of a genre, because genres don’t exist—only artists. If it’s anything, it’s “the genre of Jon Batiste” or “Black Art Pop” lol you pick, I can’t decide.
Stream WE ARE in full via the Spotify player below. Click here to purchase the new album on physical formats.
Jon Batiste – WE ARE