Jon Batiste Debuts Lead Track From ‘Relief,’ All-Star Benefit Album for Jazz Foundation of America (EXCLUSIVE)

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Recent Oscar winner and late-night star Jon Batiste is premiering a new track, “Sweet Loraine,” that serves as the leadoff single from an upcoming benefit album, “Relief: A Benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America’s Musicians Relief Fund.” Variety has the song’s exclusive debut, below.

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The album comes out on all formats — digital, CD and LP — Sept. 24 and features live or studio tracks from such giants of the genre as Christian McBride, Joshua Redman, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Herbie Hancock, Charles Lloyd and the duo of Esperanza Spalding and pianist Leo Genovese (recording under the name Irma and Leo).

The benefit album is the result of a number of top labels coming together to support the JFA, including Concord Music Group, Mack Avenue Music Group, Nonesuch Records, Universal Music Group’s Verve Label Group, Blue Note Records and Warner Music Group.

Net proceeds are earmarked for the JFA’s Musicians’ Emergency Fund, established after the pandemic overtook the world in the spring of 2020. The lockdowns prevented the JFA’s usual all-star fundraisers, usually held at the Apollo Theatre in New York and Herb Alpert’s club in Los Angeles, from proceeding in 2020 and 2021.

Said JFA executive director Joe Petrucelli, “The Jazz Foundation of America deeply appreciates the artists, songwriters and label teams who contributed to this project with such compassion and generosity. As pandemic restrictions continue to lift, we recognize that musicians will face a particularly lengthy recovery. They were among the first to be hit by the effects of the crisis and will be among the last to achieve a true sense of normalcy or stability. We and our partners are here for the long haul.”

The opening Spalding/Genovese collaboration was created remotely at home studios in Oregon and Brooklyn.

The set wraps up a live quintet performance from the JFA’s 2014 “A Great Night in Harlem” benefit at the Apollo Theater. Besides Herbie Hancock, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath, it includes two musicians who have since died — trumpeter Wallace Roney, who passed away after contracting COVID, and tenor sax player Jimmy Heath, who died at 93 in January 2020, playing the latter musician’s “Gingerbread Boy.”

Said Hancock, “I’m honored to be part of this meaningful project that supports the important work of the Jazz Foundation, who has always been there for musicians going through tough times. They have been an especially critical resource for the community during the pandemic, helping those in need of medical care, putting food on the table and paying their rent.”

Mack Avenue Music Group president Denny Stilwell led efforts to form a label consortium with JFA board member and entertainment lawyer Geoffrey Menin. Last spring, he said, “We had met via conference call for about two months before the idea of putting an album together came up. The initial impetus was to raise money for the fund. Sometime around eight weeks in, Blue Note’s president, Don Was, said, ‘Why don’t we make a record? Let’s all contribute some tracks.’ There was a nanosecond of silence, and then everybody in our core group – including John Burk at Concord, Jamie Krents at Verve – said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ We all decided that we were going to look into the vaults and agreed that we wanted to have unreleased tracks.” He added, “It just came together organically. Once we got all the music together, we traded some ideas and Joe Petrucelli, John Burk and Will Wakefield laid out the final sequence of how the tracks would flow.”

The album can be pre-ordered at https://store.jazzfoundation.org.

The full “Relief” track list:

1. IRMA and LEO back to who feat. Esperanza Spalding and Leo Genovese 4:41
2. Christian McBride Brother Malcolm 4:47
3. Cécile McLorin Salvant Easy Come, Easy Go Blues 2:32
4. Kenny Garrett Joe Hen’s Waltz 8:07
5. Jon Batiste Sweet Lorraine 3:52
6. Hiromi Green Tea Farm [2020 version] 7:52
7. Joshua Redman Facts feat. Ron Miles, Scott Colley, Brian Blade 3:39
8. Charles Lloyd & Kindred Spirits Lift Every Voice and Sing [live] 8:26
9. Herbie Hancock Gingerbread Boy feat. Wallace Roney, Jimmy Heath, Buster Williams, Albert “Tootie” Heath [live] 6:54

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