The lively -- and seamless -- meld of ragtime and modern jazz, gospel, blues, contemporary pop, and funky New Orleans R&B put forth by Jon Batiste & Stay Human on their self-titled album is in ample evidence on the band's full-length Social Music. Batiste, alto saxophonist Eddie Barbash, drummer Joe Saylor, bassist Philip Kuehn, and tubaist Ibanda Ruhumbika are in joyous form on this 12-song set. The addition of the tuba replaces the double bass on certain tracks, including a deep, forceful reading of "St. James Infirmary," an uptempo version of John Hicks' glorious "Naima's Love Song," the modern gospel original "Let God Lead," the killer party jam "Express Yourself (Say Yes)," and the strolling, funky-butt NOLA piano groove on "It's Alright (Why You Gotta)." Field-recorded and vintage atmospheric sounds link the past with the present, exemplified by the sound of rain in the opening solo piano of "D-Flat Movement I," Jelly Roll Morton's spoken voice in Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," and the slippery airy synth intro to "The Spirit Is with Us." The set closes with another piano solo offering, this time a gorgeously arranged version of John Stafford Smith's "Star Spangled Banner," letting us know what the tunes on this record all hold in common: they are elemental parts of the American musical patchwork.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek