Jon Batiste: Anatomy of Angels: Live at the Village Vanguard

Jeff Tamarkin on November 27, 2019
Jon Batiste: Anatomy of Angels:  Live at the Village Vanguard

At 35 minutes, Jon Batiste’s Anatomy of Angels: Live at the Village Vanguard could be described more as an EP than a full-length album but, despite its brevity, it packs in plenty of impressive musicality. Recorded at the venerable New York City jazz club with the rhythm section of bassist Phil Kuehn and drummer Joe Saylor of Stay Human, the pianist’s band from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert , the program features a potent battery of guest horn players. Also joining the proceedings is the always-welcome Lake Street Dive vocalist Rachael Price, who offers a sultry and bluesy ballad version of Ray Noble’s chestnut “The Very Thought of You.” Batiste accompanies Price solo on this one, and it’s a most effective presentation on the slowed-down form; the pair would undoubtedly make a terrific duo on a full album or cabaret concert should that urge ever strike them. The only other cover here is an octet arrangement of Monk’s “Round Midnight,” which Batiste and his band somehow manage to give a fresh coat of New Orleans paint without losing sight of the original elements of the tune. That leaves three Batiste originals, led off by “Creative,” which previously launched his 2013 Jazz Is Now album and takes on an additional layer of free expression here. But it’s the album closing, 13-minute “Anatomy of Angels” that utilizes everything this collective has in their arsenal, ranging from Coltranesque manic ranting to a more subdued, blues-infused simmer.