Sunday , February 25 2024
An impressionistic review of an album honoring the music of an artist that left a great impression on me, Alvin Batiste.

Music Review: Alvin Batiste — Marsalis Music Honors Alvin Batiste

There are moments when a particular piece of music seems to have the power to reach out through your stereo and take hold of your soul. Depending on the circumstances and memories attached to the first moment you might have listened to it, music, of any genre, will always have that power.

For instance, though I’ve tried, there is simply no way for me to shake the lovely maudlin tapestry of memory that finds me ten years old and sitting in the back of my parents’ car as my father drives us back home after visiting my grandparents, whenever Ronnie Milsap’s “Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World” plays. That was the day that my first dog, a young mutt named Pepper, passed away unexpectedly, and I’d been fighting back the tears all night only to have them burst out of me as this song came over the radio. Though it may have been written with other emotions in mind, it seemed to find a home in my young heart, as I used it to cry and sing to myself over the loss of my beloved puppy.

As I listen to Marsalis Music Honors Alvin Batiste, thoughts of how music can just float you away on gusts of sheer emotion threaten to blow each and every word from away before I can write it. It is the wonderful music of the late Jazz great, Alvin Batiste, that has me thinking such heavy thoughts.

Alvin’s music, you see, is that of my home state, Louisiana. More to the point, Alvin’s ethereal clarinet playing and the way it seductively swirls around in my eardrums, serves as a reminder that Jazz music is the rhythm that directs every pulsation of the city that is truly the heart of Louisiana: the city of New Orleans.

I cannot tell you how heartbroken I was when I heard the news that Mr. Batiste had passed away on May 6 of this year. Only a week earlier I’d asked for permission to receive a copy of his latest album, Alvin Batiste, which was being released by Branford Marsalis’s newly founded label, Marsalis Music. It arrived in the mail the day after his death.

Though I’ve listened to it many times since then, I’ll confess that I’d put off writing this review of the album as I wasn’t quite sure that I was up to writing something that would be able to share one-tenth of how I feel about the wonderful music it contains. In fact, though I’ve managed to write out a few hundred words so far, I’m not sure that any of them are worthy of the effort.

Which is why, I’ll admit, that I’ve chosen to build this review around the way that this album makes me feel when I listen to it. Alvin Batiste’s music is not something I can dissect and examine with the express goal of laying out each of the individual parts and telling you whether they all fit together into something worth listening to.


What I can do, though, is tell you how wonderful it is to listen to songs such as “Clean Air,” “My Life As A Tree,” and “Skylark” while standing out in the glorious warmth of an early summer’s evening in Arkansas. Beneath a velvet canopy laced through with the brilliance of an endless amount of stars, you can close your eyes and raise your arms and imagine yourself floating through the ether.

My own trip has me soaring through the green sugar-cane fields of my own childhood in Louisiana, but there’s no telling where Alvin Batiste’s beautiful clarinet will carry you off to. Perhaps, in time, after you read this and decide to purchase your own copy of this lovely album in hopes of taking your own flight, you could come back here to this babbling review and share your destination with me.

I’d like that.

About Michael Jones

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