This summer, emerging jazz wunderkind Jonathan Batiste made his big screen debut with Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer, following a recurring role on HBO’s Treme. The native of Kenner, Louisiana (also home to Wynton Marsalis) has been carving his path in the music industry since childhood and now draws sold-out crowds to venues including New York City’s legendary Blue Note and Jazz at Lincoln Center. His ring master sensibility, his passionate study of jazz, his knack for always having an instrument at hand, and his creative performance on the piano are all part of a charm that keys an excited, diverse, and enthusiastic mix of followers who range from music legends and jazz neophytes. The leader of the Stay Human Bandradiates with a message and an energy that suggests that jazz is in store for a revolution. But the first thing that everyone takes notice of with Jonathan is his dynamism.
EBONY: How did you develop your sense of style?
Jonathan Batiste: My sense of style is influenced by how I feel. I want to express myself because they see you before they hear you. You want to come on stage and what you look like should represent the song you are playing or the set you are about to play or the message in your music.
EBONY Do you have a style inspiration, or do you develop it on your own?
JB: I develop it, but when I see people who have great style, that’s inspiration. It’s like when you hear somebody who is a great, great artist, and you are an artist, it makes you feel like “Man, this is why I do this.” It’s like that. Look at Michael Jackson for instance you see him and the clothes he came out with, especially in the Dangerous era, you’re like, “Ooo, man…”
EBONY: What about Prince?
JB: Prince is another one. I played with Prince in 2010…the America tour. The one with Misty Copeland dancing on top of the piano! But Prince played the piano on that song…
Read more: Jenna Bond-Louden, Ebony