The reason Jon Batiste says Alexander Jacques runs everything with his live performance is because Jacques has done it all. When he’s not the music director for EarthGang, programming Summer Walker’s shows or playing the keyboard for multiple stars at one festival, he’s a devoted father who can quickly tell you why certain artists have better shows than others.
“[EarthGang] can perform for 90 minutes with continuous melodic sounds, bars, and energy and not get tired. I study other performances, and people usually get exhausted by the 35 or 40-minute mark. But, at the end of our set, we’re usually turning up,” Jacques told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the Black Moses touring professional explains how Summer Walker’s live show has evolved, what went into Jon Batiste’s epic Grammy performance, and how EarthGang did what few artists can at Coachella. Read the exclusive chat below.
When did you first connect with EarthGang?
I first connected with them during the pandemic, but it was during the pandemic when BET asked Spillage Village to perform at BET Homecoming. Zeke and Barry, Spillage Village’s management, asked me if I would come in and [be music director] for the group’s performance and everything. It went well and a year later, they hit us again, saying, “Hey, we’re releasing Ghetto Gods, and we’re about to perform on ‘Jimmy Fallon.’ Can you guys do the performance with us?” We killed that performance. Then, when their tour came up, they brought us on for the domestic run.
EarthGang is one of the most creative groups in hip hop. How involved were they in the music direction of “The Ghetto Gods Tour”?
They were super involved. I’m the musical director, but my brother Vancil Cooper is our arranger and drummer. Cooper really comes up with ideas for the arrangement, especially all the preliminary stuff. He’s a mastermind at programming and arranging. He comes to us with his great ideas, and we all sit down and start cooking on top of that. From the band to the DJ, to the singers, to EarthGang, everybody’s involved in rehearsals and improving it. Both Doc and Olu are super hands-on. They were involved in their Coachella intro. For the most part, people at Coachella perform their tour set. EarthGang said, “Nah, we’re going to switch it up. We’re going to do a whole new set.”
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What makes them elite performers?
They can perform for 90 minutes with continuous melodic sounds, bars, and energy and not get tired. I study other performances, and people usually get exhausted by the 35 or 40-minute mark. But, at the end of our set, we’re usually turning up.
After “The Ghetto Gods Tour,” they went on a massive tour with Gorillaz. How did the two differ?
“The Ghetto Gods Tour” was their headlining tour, and it was in theaters across America, like House of Blues, with maybe 3,000 or 4,000 capacity. The Gorillaz tour was an arena tour. So, opening up for them meant some people in the crowd didn’t know EarthGang. But, I never felt we had to win that crowd over because we were just us onstage.
EarthGang has some of the most dedicated fans ever. Do any fan interactions stick out to you?
Once, we were at this venue in Detroit but we had to, unfortunately, go to a smaller venue in Detroit to perform. The smaller Detroit venue was a tight venue with no barricade between the stage and the crowd. People were basically on the stage and at EarthGang shows, they were getting wild. A couple of girls were in the front row getting pushed by the crowd because everybody was rowdy during the show. Those two girls turned around and pushed the crowd back (laughs). They were holding their own.
Jon Batiste’s Grammys set was one of the biggest performances you’ve worked on. How did that come together?
Jon is my guy. It was a team effort, bro. Jemel McWilliams, Janelle Monáe’s creative director, worked on the Grammys performance with me because he’s also the creative director for Jon Batiste. It’s a brotherhood. We’ve figured it out. Jon already had an idea of how he wanted it to flow. We spent the week rehearsing. After such a crazy week of rehearsing and amazing energy, people cried, hugged, and loved each other. There will be tears if we have a week of rehearsal where we’re all bonding and stuff. There is going to be fellowship. There’s going to be a spiritual energy in that room. It never fails. After that week of Grammy rehearsals, to go kill the performance and have so many write-ups about it being the best, and have my brother win Album of the Year, we were backstage going absolutely nuts.
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You also helped Summer Walker mold her live show. How did you two connect?
I connected with her years ago. It was 2018 when her management called me and asked if I could help put a band together for her. She had just came out with the record “Girls Need Love.” It was going crazy. So I called my guy Remey Williams first because we just went on the “Dirty Computer Tour” together. I trusted him as a drummer and just as a person in general on the road, which is important when you’re touring. My second call was to Larry Lambert, who’s currently her musical director. Chris Patterson hit me up and said, “Yo, I got my guy, Larry, that would be a perfect fit for Summer.” And I was like, “Cool, bro. Let’s get Larry in here.” From the ground up, we’ve seen this from a small rehearsal room at Crossover Studios in Atlanta to 90,000 people at Wireless Fest in London.
To that point, how has Summer’s show evolved?
Our shows are created purely off of love and energy from her. These are her records. Every artist has their own growth. Where our performance is right now, it’s amazing for her. That’s all we can ask for. All we can do is make sure the artist loves the show, and we love the show. I don’t really listen to any of the naysayers or anything like that. It’s all positive vibes over here. I helped program the show with her.
You’re also a father. What major concerts has your son been to?
My son has been at the craziest shows since he was a baby. I brought him to the Gorillaz tour. He absolutely loves the Gorillaz. My son is an artist. He creates art.
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What do you have coming for the rest of 2023?
Summer has a couple of festivals, and I have a couple more shows with EarthGang. We have a couple of overseas dates. With Batiste, we have a couple of overseas dates I’m really excited about. We got jazz festivals in Brazil and Argentina and the Montreux Jazz Festival, which is always an amazing jazz festival every year in Switzerland. We got the Newport Jazz Fest in Rhode Island. That’s going to be crazy this year. And I just be looking forward to being home in Atlanta with my son, bro.
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