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Press Conference: Jon Batiste Talks Pixar’s ‘Soul’, Finding the Perfect Jazz Music For The Film & More

Pixar’s Soul hit’s Disney+ this month! I’ve seen the first 40 minutes of Soul and can confirm Jon Batiste’s music is the film is superb!

Pixar’s latest film, starring Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Phylicia Rashad, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, Angela Bassett, Daveed Diggs and more, hits the streaming service Christmas Day for no extra charge for current subscribers. Last month, I had a chance to attend a virtual conference with the team behind the film (be sure to check out the first part of our coverage with co-director Kemp Powers). 

During the press conference, globally renowned musician Jon Batiste (who composed the Jazz compositions and arrangements for this film), stopped by to talk about his process and how he found the perfect music for the film. 

Check out what Batiste had to say below:

Batiste: It’s a lot of light and life force energy, I like to call it, and that was really the beginning of me figuring out my way into the jazz music in the film. Finding the tone, the spiritual tone. The film has this ethereal air because it’s going between the real world in New York City and the Great Beyond, which is where souls are born, and where they figure out their purpose, and where souls go once a person’s soul leaves their body in their death.

And I wanted to find some jazz music that had an ethereal and very universal accessible form with melodies and harmonies that-that had that same spirit. So, if you listen…there’s an optimism in them, and it’s also a bit melancholy at the same time, and there’s ways that you can modulate and change the key, and it just hits you right here [hand on chest].

Jon Batiste
(Courtesy of Disney/Pixar)

Batiste: Every song has those kind of harmonic, melodic and rhythmic textures, and it brings you to a place spiritually. Even if you don’t know how to describe it, it puts you in a space throughout the whole film when you’re hearin’ that music, and it really complements what Trent and Atticus came up with. And the times in the film when our music comes together, when the worlds kinda collide, it’s amazing how it worked out. 

Batiste went on to talk about how working with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross who composed the original score really helped find the perfect tone for the world and for Joe. 

Batiste: I really am thankful that we had the chance to do that because at first, we didn’t even hear each other’s music. And then, as the process started to go along, I got a chance to hear some of the music they were making, they heard some of the music that I was making, and we came together in this one moment.  

It really changed the rest of the music that I was composing for the film because I got a chance to see into their process, and that also leaked into the kind of spiritual tone that I’m talkin’ about, this ethos that we created.  So that was my approach and then we just channeled a lot of the greats.  

(Courtesy of Disney/Pixar)

Batiste: We channeled all of the greats that I had the pleasure of playing in jazz clubs with around the world, as well as the ones who I’ve listened to for years since I was a little boy. Like Joe, when he walked in the club, I wanted to channel their spirit through the types of compositions.

I’m so happy that the word is getting out about the film and people gonna finally see it.  People need light in this time, and I’m all about bringing the light, and that’s one of the great pleasures of working with Pixar. They’ve created these films that delve into all of the cultures of the world and create it in a way where it’s accessible to all people. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what your experience – the stories transcend all of that. 

About Jon Batiste: 

(Credit: Abby Ross via Rolling Stone)

Jon Batiste is an American virtuoso pianist, bandleader, composer, record producer, educator and actor. As a teenager, he began self-producing and releasing his music on the internet, as well as performing internationally. His major label debut “Hollywood Africans” was nominated for a GRAMMY award for Best American Roots Performance in 2019 and, along with his band Stay Human, he is featured nightly on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. His music is featured in the 2020 Disney Pixar film Soul, and his composing and songwriting will be featured in his large scale, genre-melding symphonic work “American Symphony,” set to be performed at Carnegie Hall in 2021.

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