Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Jon Batiste: We Are [Verve, 2021]
Hard to tell exactly how many "spirits that influence me" the booklet thanks when the listing includes "the Fats', the Roys, the Charlies, the Pauls, the Kings." Pushing 70, say, most Black as is only fair but not Ludwig or Debussy (or Bob?) and you know he could have kept going because occasionally he does, like when the song with the Zadie Smith cameo namechecks the Beatles, the Stones, and the Wu-Tang Clan. A breathier singer than we and he might prefer, Batiste makes up for this deficiency with his well-schooled arrangements and all-purpose New Orleans piano plus he's got the spirit. Many feel-good musicians talk the kind of all-purpose ecumenicism favored by Stephen Colbert's bandleader. This album won the big Grammy because his NARAS brethren and sistern believed he put it into practice, and for once they were right. May such a miracle happen again, and while you're keeping your fingers crossed savor this fun fact: Batiste's grandfather was president of the Louisiana Postal Workers Union. A-