Late night TV bandleader Jon Batiste can now boast of a sweep, after his work on the Disney animated film “Soul” won the Oscar for Best Original Score on Sunday night.
Co-created with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the music also took home the same award at the Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards, and Critics’ Choice Awards—among others—while winning the animated feature category at each ceremony as well.
Batiste, who has also notched two Grammy nominations this year, can take at least some credit in both categories, as he not only provided music but also animation modeling for the film (as reported by NPR on Christmas).
These were the first major award wins for the 34-year-old New Orleans native and member of a New Orleans musical dynasty.
His work has spanned the spectrum of musical art, from leading The Late Show’s house band since 2015, to leading music curation at The Atlantic since 2017 and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem since 2012. He also released eight studio albums to date, four live albums, and four EPs.
It was perhaps only a matter of time until he expanded into film.
He is the second Black person to win in the music category at the Oscars, which hadn’t happened in nearly 35 years, when Herbie Hancock took home the award for his work on the similarly jazzy film “Round Midnight” (whose B-side soundtrack also took home a Grammy).
That occurred when Batiste was barely 4 months old, and approximately 17 years later he was making albums of his own, fresh off graduation from St Augustine High in New Orleans (whose marching band he featured on one of his most recent cuts, “WE ARE”).
Batiste has noted in various interviews his Catholic upbringing and has been vocal about his strong faith, going so far as to call the message of the Bible and Christianity as “one of the guiding principles” of his life.
Now well into his career and easily making his family, teachers, and pastors proud at every step, Batiste is also making music galore—and to great effect.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, in priesthood formation with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).