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Batiste And Ellis: New Orleans In New York

At 22, Jonathan Batiste has already played Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and half-time at the 2008 NBA All-Star Game. The New York Times recently wrote that Batiste's piano playing is "stunning... spare, forceful, witty, funky, imaginative and coherent." JazzSet brings him up close from the Jazz Standard in New York, opening for saxophonist John Ellis and his spirited, funky Double-Wide quartet, with music from Dance Like There's No Tomorrow, featured on both Down Beat's and eMusic's Best Recordings of 2008 lists.

Batiste graduated from the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts high school, and then from Juilliard. He's released two CDs, with another on the way.

At Jazz Standard in New York, he's with a trio of what he calls his "musical brothers": Phil Kuehn (bass), Joe Saylor (drums) and Jamie Allegre (percussion). The only piece that doesn't display his simultaneous speed, grace and grounding in classic New Orleans piano is the closer: Chopin's Prelude in E Minor.

In the 1990s, John Ellis moved his jazz studies from North Carolina to the University of New Orleans, but he found so much work with the likes of Ellis Marsalis and Walter Payton (the Preservation Hall bassist and father of trumpeter Nicholas) that Ellis dropped out of school to take advantage. The second time he entered the Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition, he took second place.

As a graduate of the New School jazz program and a Brooklyn resident, Ellis tries to keep one foot in New York and the other in New Orleans — the city that inspires Double-Wide, with Gary Versace on organ and accordion, Matt Perrine on sousaphone and Jason Marsalis on drums. Every piece Ellis wrote for Double-Wide's Dance Like There's No Tomorrow exists to make listeners dance, whether in church, in the streets, in Jackson Square or Cajun country, or in their hearts.

Batiste's set originally recorded March 17, 2008, at Jazz Standard in New York City. Ellis' set originally recorded May 13, 2008, at the Jazz Standard.


Jazz Standard artistic director Seth Abramson and assistant Zak Szysko, with house sound by Aaron Nevezie and Andrew Haskell. Recording and mix by JazzSet technical director Duke Markos with WBGO's Josh Webb, Yujin Cha, David Tallacksen. Producer Becca Pulliam, executive producer Thurston Briscoe III at WBGO 88.3 FM, Newark, N.J.

Copyright 2008 WBGO