“It’s got to be an experience. It can’t be something that’s like a museum piece.”
Jon Batiste offered that assessment about jazz back in 2014, during a conversation with Walter Isaacson. He was talking about refurbishing the music’s appeal for a younger generation — making its mission, and even its history, feel vibrant in the present tense.
Batiste has kept up his part of the bargain there — as bandleader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, as co-artistic director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and as a solo artist with a freewheeling relationship to genre. The exuberant video for his new single, “I Need You,” takes his proposition literally: set in an art gallery, it imagines what would happen if some archival photographs of Lindy Hoppers in Harlem suddenly came to life.
“I Need You” is the second single from WE ARE, which Verve will release on March 19. (The title track and lead single was featured in Take Five last summer.) The video was directed by Alan Ferguson, whose previous credits include work with Katy Perry (“Hot N Cold”) and Beyoncé (“Dance For You”). The choreography, which puts a contemporary spin on classic Harlem social dance — and at one point seems to take over Batiste’s body, as if in spirit possession — is by Jemel McWilliams.
As for the song itself, Batiste wrote and produced it in collaboration with songwriter Autumn Rowe and producer Kizzo; as on the rest of WE ARE, it’s a burst of musical extroversion that melds elements of jazz, gospel, rock ‘n’ roll and more. (At one point, you’ll notice, Batiste even forays into rapping.)
“This song is a vibe cleanse,” he says in a press statement. “After 2020, this is like a warm hug.”
He adds: “Let’s bring the vibes back!”
WE ARE will be released on Verve on March 19; preorder here.