Coming off his expansive, Grammy-nominated 2018 studio album Hollywood Africans, Jon Batiste offers the more intimate and swinging Anatomy of Angels: Live at the Village Vanguard. Recorded live in 2018 during Batiste's residency at the storied NYC-venue, Anatomy of Angels finds the pianist displaying his fluid jazz chops alongside his longtime Stay Human bandmates bassist Philip Kuehn and drummer Joe Saylor. As the high-profile bandleader on Late Night with Stephen Colbert, Batiste has often showcased his eclectic funk, R&B, and even pop influences. Here, he shifts to a more traditional jazz sound that evokes his deep New Orleans roots and passion for the music of innovative bebop pianist Thelonious Monk. The opening trio original, "Creative," in particular evinces Monk as Batiste kicks the song off with an angular, rhythmically dynamic intro before settling into a jaunty, mid-tempo groove. Similarly engaging is his rambling "Dusk Train to Doha," in which he launches into a cascading rubato intro before settling into the song's slow-burning and bluesy midsection. Batiste also brings along a series of guests including Lake Street Dive singer Rachael Price, who pairs with the pianist for a dusky, urbane reading of Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You." Later, he expands his trio to an octet with trumpeters Giveton Gelin and Jon Lampley, as well as saxophonists Patrick Bartley and Tivon Pennicott, for a dynamically robust ensemble performance of Monk's classic "Round Midnight." The same group also sticks around for a lively version of Batiste's own modal-tinged title track. While Batiste has long been recognized for his charisma and cross-pollinated sound, with Anatomy of Angels he spotlights his richly textured jazz chops.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar