Following up Anatomy of Angels from earlier in 2019, pianist Jon Batiste offers a second volume of music from the Village Vanguard. This one, according to the Late Show With Stephen Colbert bandleader, is more focused on short forms, riffs, and melodies, setting the soloists free and conjuring a party atmosphere shared by listeners and band members alike. Whether he’s singing with an inexhaustible reservoir of blues feeling on the opening “BLACCK,” navigating infectious midtempo bebop on “HIGHER,” or tearing down the house with authentic solo piano boogie-woogie on “KENNER,” Batiste gives a thousand percent straight through. Jon Lampley’s tuba on “BIRTHE” and the closing “ORDR” is a nice emphatic touch, a complement to the sturdy bass of Phil Kuehn and tambourine-enhanced drumming of Joe Saylor.
Amid all the revelry is an emotional tribute to Roy Hargrove, whose untimely death came just as Batiste and the group were beginning this Vanguard residency in late 2018. Batiste’s first time playing the Vanguard was with Hargrove’s quintet, so it’s fitting that Hargrove’s obscure “SOULFUL” is heard here for the first time on record, providing a platform for trumpeter and Hargrove disciple Giveton Gelin.