Born into a musical family in Louisiana, and educated at the Juilliard School in New York (earning a master’s degree), Jonathan Batiste is still a few years short of 30, but has been performing since age 8.
He’s recorded albums with veteran New Orleans musicians, as well as an album of live material recorded on New York’s subways during impromptu performances that Batiste and his band describe as “love riots.” His current project is a quartet called Stay Human, and an album titled “Social Music.”
Batiste’s music spans several genres, and he tends to think that distinctions between different kinds of music aren’t always necessary.
“The purpose of this music is to bring people together from all walks of life by creating a montage of many different music traditions and playing it with the spirit of inclusiveness,” he told an interviewer recently. “That intent is what gives these different styles cohesion, and that’s why I decided to call it ‘social music.’
“We are in a technological age. … We must not forget the transformative power of a live musical experience and a genuine human exchange.” In addition to which, he told another interviewer, “social music” is an easier term to use than “some super-hyphenated name like jazz-pop-rock-electronica.”
Batiste plays piano but is also quite fond of an instrument he calls a “harmonabord” (a sort of harmonica and keyboard, sometimes known as a melodica). Bandmates are Eddie Barbash (sax), a 23-year-old who is another Juilliard grad; Ibanda Ruhumbika (tuba), who has a background in classical music and jazz; and Joe Saylor (percussion), who has conducted jazz workshops at Stanford and other universities. They’ve all played alongside Wynton Marsalis and other prominent jazz figures.
Jonathan Batiste and the Stay Human Band perform nightly at 8 p.m. from Tuesday, March 18, through Saturday, March 22, in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre at the Mondavi Center. The theater will be set up in the cabaret configuration.
Tickets are $47 general, $19 for UC Davis students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.