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The music of New York

A "Love Riot" With Jonathan Batiste and The Stay Human Band

"There's love that's spread between everybody through the music and it's sort of like a riot because we stop the street."

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Jonathan Batiste and The Stay Human Band, with special guest Wycliffe Gordon, perform through the streets of the Lower East Side after a gig.

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On a recent Tuesday night, Jonathan Batiste and The Stay Human Band wrapped up a gig at Rockwood Music Hall and proceeded to perform their foot stomping, funky brand of swinging jazz music through the Lower East Side to the after party six blocks away.

With the crowd in tow, Batiste on melodica, Ibanda Ruhumbika on tuba, Joe Saylor on tambourine, and special guest Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, the band clogged up the sidewalks and streets, stopping traffic as they gathered fans along the way.

"What happened tonight is what we call a love riot," said Batiste, outside the after party at Culture Fix. "There's love that's spread between everybody through the music and it's sort of like a riot because we stop the street." 

Batiste, 25, grew up in a family of musicians in Kenner, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans.  A jazz prodigy on piano, he moved to New York at 17 to attend Juilliard and has remained in the city ever since.

"New York culture is like the fastest, most eclectic, diverse culture that you could possibly be in on planet Earth," Batiste said. "It's affected me in the sense that I'm always thinking, always moving and always trying to assimilate new things."

Since forming in his early days in New York, Batiste and Stay Human have been determined to bring jazz to the people, regularly stepping out of the clubs to perform for the public in the streets and in the subways.

"They might not be exposed to it or have an interest in it yet, and we take something like jazz and we bring it right in front of people. It's like a captive audience," Batiste said.

In line with his mission of spreading awareness and appreciation of jazz, Batiste took on the role of associate artistic director for the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, where he creates programming like the Jazz is Now sessions.

"It's a program where we have live music examples of jazz, things that people might not understand and we break it down," he said. "It's all about seeing and just being converted."

In August, Batiste and Stay Human will play for fans and converts alike, every Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. at Rockwood Music Hall, 196 Allen St. in Manhattan. The concerts, which are being presented by the museum, are titled "Spontaneous Combustion."

"What we do is we get together and we spontaneously combust," Batiste said. "We don't have any sort of predetermined idea of what to do other than to make the music get to that moment that we call combustion, and it's spontaneous because jazz happens right in the moment."

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