To help launch a new podcast series for the Atlantic magazine, keyboard virtuoso Jon Batiste has put his stamp on “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a Civil War-era song that was adopted a century later as an anthem for the civil rights movement.
Batiste, bandleader of the TV series “Late Night With Stephen Colbert,” composed his arrangement on a prepared piano (an instrument with items placed in or on its strings to create different sounds). His version draws on world music as well as jazz, blues and folk influences. In an interview published on atlantic.com, he said, “It’s a very globalized version of the song. And that to me is a picture of what the world is becoming.
“The ethos of the song, to me, in 2017, is much different than in 1862. I’m thinking about what we’re going through in the country right now, and what we’ve done with the mythology that we were given. When you think about those things, it’s not a happy journey, it’s not a journey that hasn’t had its struggles. Putting that pain and struggle in the arrangement was really important. It was almost subconscious, because when you think about the song, you go there.”
Along with his Colbert gig, Batiste will be on tour this fall, with a stop Oct. 14 in Chicago, when he joins the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis for an SCP Special Concert.
To read the full interview, click here.