'Spoken Dialogue': Jon Batiste and 'Soul' Director Kemp Powers

Soul co-writer and director Kemp Powers got together with The Late Show bandleader (and Soul co-composer) Jon Batiste for a conversation over Zoom as part of Rolling Stone‘s Spoken Dialogue series. The two discussed their affinity for jazz music, and how they approached the task of introducing it to a younger generation through the Pixar animated film.

“A lot of people wonder when you pitch a movie like Soul, would kids be into it?” Powers said. “And the main reason why I don’t think we ever were really concerned was because we knew that if we presented the music, performed in the dynamic way that jazz music is performed, that kids would lean into it, in the same way that all of us leaned in while watching Sesame Street or Tom & Jerry. Kids actually have a very visceral, natural connection to music.”

Batiste agreed and pointed out that while any introduction of jazz to a new generation had to have some root in the past, the genre always has to be grounded in the present and heading forward into the future.

“That feeling is what makes jazz so special: It’s literally the thing that’s happening as you’re watching it, right in front of you,” he said. “It’s the most modern art form because it’s happening a millisecond at a time.”

Soul is available to stream now on Disney+.

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