The Unorthodox Drummer: Just Jamal, the latest from Jamal Batiste of the Batiste family raises hopes.
Batiste can handle most instruments, pull from a list of talented friends, and produce a highly stylish record that sounds minty fresh on headphones. Ambient neo-soul, thick bass lines and deadly serious keys (Ronald Markham on synth, Conun Pappas on Rhodes, Bernie Worrell in the air) all beg for the first floor of the Funky Butt and seem to echo Philadelphia. Perhaps this is music for a more cosmopolitan Crescent City.
Maybe that’s the better question for the next generation: Can the city foster them? Listen to “Fusionristic,” a spacey track with truly unorthodox drumming. Are there gigs for this music? Got me, but I’d bet there’s an audience, given the chance. Batiste snatches important accents from the seventies—the Roy Ayers/Kool and the Gang crescendos, well-placed back-up vocals—and matches them with a DJ’s sensibility in his new day percussion, suggesting an intelligent late night scene.
Overindulgence in virtuosity by several parties reminds us of many a self-produced effort by young (and not-so-young) local talents. Batiste’s musical voice could use direction, but the sound here is original enough to make you trust his judgment. Yesterday or tomorrow, confidence remains an important hallmark of our best musicians.