Jon Batiste looks back on his State Dinner gig at the White House


For Jon Batiste, the considered taking part in on the White Home was a dream. However even after he acquired the invitation from the primary girl, he wasn’t certain that he would be capable of settle for. The first consideration for the 36-year-old musician was whether or not his spouse, Suleika Jaouad, may very well be by his facet. She goes by way of chemotherapy to deal with leukemia; her well being was a significant purpose Batiste made the choice earlier this yr to depart as bandleader on “Late Night time with Stephen Colbert,” a publish he held for almost seven years. He needed her by his facet for this massive second. Ultimately, the virtuosic bandleader was capable of carry her as properly 9 different members of his prolonged household.

The occasion capped a momentous yr for Batiste, which additionally noticed him take residence 5 Grammys, together with album of the yr, in April. On Thursday on the White Home, French president Emmanuel Macron broke into a giant grin when Batiste built-in the French nationwide anthem right into a jazz piano rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” And lengthy after the C-SPAN cameras had been ushered out, Batiste led the world leaders in a second line, or New Orleans-style road get together, by way of the glass pavilion on the South Garden. Over the weekend, he spoke with The Submit about his set record and what it meant to carry out on the White Home.

At state dinner, Biden and Macron stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’

So, inform me how this began. What was your response if you acquired the decision to carry out the State Dinner?

Oh, I used to be so excited as a result of I’ve so many ties to public service in my household. My mom [Katherine Batiste] labored for the US Authorities as an environmentalist for near 4 a long time. And my grandfather [David Gautier] was an unimaginable activist. He led Louisiana Postal Employees Union and he was the primary wave to combine the Navy through the Korean Warfare through the Truman period. So I known as them instantly.

My spouse was with me in the lounge when Dr. Biden known as. She was getting on a aircraft and she or he was simply so excited that she needed to name me herself. I used to be like, “Oh, wow, hey Dr. Biden, Madam first girl.” I mentioned in that first name that I needed to carry all of my household and I needed to name my mother to see if she may wrangle the crew, as a result of it was 10 of us. So then I known as Dr. Biden again. and I mentioned, “You realize what? We will all make it. Are you able to accommodate all of us on the dinner?”

Did the primary girl say why they’d picked you? I can see the Franco-American nature of New Orleans, and also you’re from a jazz household, which is an American artwork kind.

Properly, she talked about that she was a fan first and that was good. She was saying that, “I’m an enormous fan of your music. I like what you symbolize past your music. And I believe that you simply symbolize the nation properly.” That was particular to listen to.

How did you resolve what you had been going to play? The White Home solely let the press keep for the primary music and a half.

Oh man! Properly, I thought of all of these connections in arising with the set record after which speaking to my grandfather about who constructed the White Home.

By who constructed it, you imply enslaved Individuals?

Yeah, we talked about his historical past of being a proud American and being somebody who believes within the freedoms supplied by democracy. All of that was tremendous, tremendous clearly put within the context once we had been standing within the White Home speaking about it.

I believed it will be nice to start out with an impressionistic piano model of “Carry Each Voice and Sing,” “Star Spangled Banner” and the French nationwide anthem, all reimagined and in counterpoint to one another. I believed that might set the tone of this unimaginable risk, but additionally chatting with the historical past of America and the approaching collectively that we symbolize at our highest stage.

We did “Sunny Facet of the Road,” which is one thing that Louis Armstrong sung. It’s from the Nice American Songbook and it’s additionally one thing that’s performed loads in New Orleans and that Pops [Jon’s father, Michael Batiste] would play.

And we did, “Cry,” which is one thing that I composed and was on “We Are.” It’s the blues and it has that kind of weight of the occasions and feeling of heaviness that we’ve had on this time. You realize, crying out within the blues custom is a type of catharsis that I believe is vital for us. I did an association for the president’s personal Marine Band. That they had that chamber orchestra onstage taking part in all evening, and so they had been killin’, man.

Then from there we went to complete the set with “Freedom.” That’s one other music of mine. I advised the viewers, “We undoubtedly can’t keep seated for the remainder of this efficiency.”

I jumped into the group. And I went over to Stephen [Colbert] and Stephen and I, we simply did our factor. After which Julia Louis-Dreyfus was there and she or he was already dancing. So then that changed into a dance get together.

After which I snuck in one other one. I used to be taking a look at President Joe Biden. I used to be saying, “Sorry, Mr. President I gotta play ‘Saints Go Marching In.’” As a result of we simply have so many of us from Louisiana in the home. And so they broke out the handkerchiefs and second line.

The “Saints” was sort of an audible. My father sang with us. I had that arrange with the president’s personal Marine Band. That they had the association however I didn’t know if I used to be gonna be capable of get it in there.

You simply gave President Biden a glance to get the go-ahead for a second line?

Once we had been achieved with “Freedom,” I checked out him and I shrugged, as a result of he was about to come back as much as wrap up and conclude the night. People had already whipped out the handkerchief, which is conventional for the New Orleans second line to place your handkerchief within the air. And he noticed that at his desk and he was like, “Properly, go forward.” Thumbs up.

Did he be a part of the second line?

Yeah! I jumped into the group once more. I went over there and I gave him a high-five and he was doing his factor. He didn’t have a handkerchief, however he was undoubtedly part of the second line.

And Emmanuel Macron and Dr. Biden and Brigitte Macron?

Oh yeah. Emmanuel Macron is so, so cool. He grabbed my nephew, Brennan, who’s 7, and he picked him up through the second line. After which after the second line was over, he put him onstage, as a result of he’s 7 so he couldn’t see over everyone. That was an amazing second.

Suleika mentioned this was her first public outing in a yr, since her bone marrow transplant. Is she nonetheless going by way of chemo?

Sure, nonetheless going by way of chemo. I imply, in case you would have seen the place we had been at in February, and to see her in that costume … It was unimaginable for me to witness. I be taught a lot from her — she’s a superhero.

I discussed [to Dr. Biden] that we needed to have Kristen, who’s Suleika’s nurse, and Julian from my workforce there. They had been ensuring that each step of the way in which — within the automotive, I’ve my drivers examined and sporting the masks. And we’re sporting masks all over the place apart from once we’re within the dinner and within the lodge. Even of us at 4 Seasons had been looped into what we would have liked when it comes to room service and precautions there.

What was going by way of your head as you left the White Home?

I used to be simply so enthusiastic about what we had achieved. Musically, I really feel that we introduced American musical tradition, and in addition paid an excessive amount of respect and homage to the French affect and New Orleans tradition, which is simply embedded in every thing that I do. Then simply from the attitude of our nation, and what it means to be an artist and to be an individual who represents the tradition and what we imply once we say “the tradition” and the way to frequently enhance upon the issues that our ancestors left us — that was additionally actually heavy on me.

And I additionally felt it was an enormous accomplishment for our household on numerous ranges. You realize, my grandfather and my mom, and even seeing my nephews Braeden and Brennan, and simply excited about what this second will imply to them 10, 20 years down the highway.

That was a that was loads. I’m so exhausted.

This interview has been edited and condensed for area and readability.


Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected

- Advertisement -spot_img