Pixar animation ‘Soul’: who composed the jazz music and how to stream the soundtrack

31 December 2020, 09:12

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

We explore the music scoring ‘Soul’, the new Disney-Pixar animation about a middle-school band teacher with jazz aspirations.

Jazz takes centre stage in Pixar’s new movie Soul, the charming animation starring Jamie Foxx, about a middle-school band teacher with jazz ambitions.

Foxx plays Joe Gardner, who winds up in fantastical realm The Great Before and must find his way out by connecting to his true purpose on earth.

All the wonderful jazz sequences you hear in the film are from Jon Batiste, the Grammy-nominated legend and Late Show With Stephen Colbert bandleader.

But there are also some wonderful ethereal passages you’ll notice, as Foxx’s character falls down a grate and enters an alternate universe.

Read more: The 20 best animated film scores >

Jamie Foxx voices music teacher Joe Gardner
Jamie Foxx voices music teacher Joe Gardner. Picture: Pixar/Disney

Who wrote the jazz music in Pixar’s ‘Soul’?

Into the music, Juilliard-trained musician Jon Batiste poured his heart and – go on, let us have this one – soul.

The animators even decided to meticulously animate Batiste’s real-life fingers for when the main character, Jon Gardner, plays keys.

Batiste explains in an NPR interview: “My way of playing, my hands – they’re exact replica in the 3D kind of animation, the way that he kind of moves his body. You’ll see. If you watch the film and then see me playing, it’s kind of crazy.”

His music also helps bring Pixar’s first Black lead to life. “I was almost in tears because you see your essence, and you think, wow, this is the first Black Pixar lead. And we’re putting jazz culture out there in this massive way in the essence of this main character.”

In a video on Pixar’s YouTube channel, director and screenwriter Pete Docter says: “Most of the films at Pixar, we’ve embraced the classic Hollywood large orchestral score. [But] there was something about the story and the feeling of this place that demanded something else.”

Co-director Kemp Power adds: “The jazz itself is almost like another character in the film.”

Who wrote the score for ‘Soul’?

While the delicious jazz sequences all come from Batiste, Nine Inch Nails members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (who won an Oscar for their work on The Social Network), wrote the score.

Being set in two distinct worlds – real-life New York City and what Disney/Pixar call the “ethereal cosmic realms of The Great Before” – Soul needed two musical sound worlds.

You’ll hear Reznor and Ross’s magical passages enter the soundtrack as Joe Gardner enters the alternate ‘Soul’ world, after falling through a grate in the road.

Jazz takes centre stage in new animation 'Soul'
Jazz takes centre stage in new animation 'Soul'. Picture: Pixar/Disney

How can I listen to the ‘Soul’ soundtrack?

Walt Disney Records has released a vinyl version of Soul Original Score and Music from and Inspired by Soul, both also available for digital download.

The soundtrack can also be downloaded or streamed online.

Soul is out now exclusively on Disney+.