Jon Batiste, pianist and Late Show bandleader, has announced his major-label debut, a solo album entitled Hollywood Africans, which is due out September 28 via Verve Records.
The new record, recorded in New Orleans and produced by T Bone Burnett, sees Batiste exploring his own history through new originals like opener “Kenner Boogie” (named after Batiste’s Louisiana hometown) and covers of classics like Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” and the NOLA standard “Saint James Infirmary.” The album’s title Hollywood Africans takes from a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting of the same name.
“The idea was to strip everything down, go back to basics,” Batiste says in a press release. “When you strip something down to rawest form, the essence of it shines through. You’re getting who I am at the core. This record is a release from the pressures I’ve felt as a black musician, and an homage to the long lineage of ancestors before me who managed to create transcendent art while often being forced to wear a mask and to dim their lights. They tapped into their God-given gifts while under absurd duress, remixing the culture into a fuller, newer, better, more united one. They left us with superpowers—blues, rock and roll, boogie woogie, jazz, gospel, and so many more—all of which suffuse this record. Because of them, I don’t have to wear a mask. I get to be who I am.”
Batiste has also shared the lead single from Hollywood Africans, “Don’t Stop,” a meditative, piano-driven tune with swells of orchestral strings. Listen to the new song below, and see the full album tracklist.
Hollywood Africans Tracklist:
1. Kenner Boogie (written by Jon Batiste)
2. What A Wonderful World (written by George David Weiss, George Douglas)
3. Chopinesque (written by Jon Batiste, Frédéric Chopin)
4. Saint James Infirmary (written by Irving Mills, Joe Primrose)
5. Nocturne No.1 in D Minor (written by Jon Batiste)
6. The Very Thought of You (written by Ray Noble)
7. Green Hill Zone (written by Masato Nakamura)
8. Mr. Buddy (written by Jon Batiste)
9. Is it Over (written by Jon Batiste)
10. Smile (written by John Turner, Geoffrey Parsons, Charlie Chaplin)
11. Don’t Stop (written by Jon Batiste, Steve McEwan)