I’ve spent my weekend clicking through NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts as a coping mechanism for all that’s going on. There’s something intimate seeing artists stripped down to their essence, divorced from their audio engineers, record producers, and stage lighting. If I could see all acts in this format, I would.
One moment I keep coming back to is the third act of Jon Batiste’s Tiny Desk set, where he sits down at the “eighty-eight”. I, of course, know Jon from being the bandleader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and I love his Louisiana-infused jazz sound, but I haven’t experienced much of his music beyond little ditties and interludes on TV. I think that’s part of what makes this window so special, it’s Jon without Colbert.
As Jon puts down his square guitar and sits down at the piano, it’s clear that he’s home here on the piano. The hammers inside the open face upright dance in mechanical wonderment as Jon finds his place. He enchants the keys and the crowd. Then with perfect comedic timing he hits the public radio nerds with a BJ Leiderman inspired sting, a wink and a nod to let the crowd know he knows exactly where he is, what he’s doing, and how good he is. Jon then glides into a standard 1-4-5 tune with an upbeat gospel bassline. He seems both in control and possessed by the music. And as the song gets going, Jon says:
When times get weird, we forget about the simple things, so I like to write a basic song to remind us of that.
I love that perspective. When the world gets complicated, keep it simple. It inspires me to embrace the simple path. You can make a lot of music with three chords.
We got a lot of living
We working overtime
Don’t need another million
You are a goldmine