Jon Batiste, the young, award-winning multi-instrumentalist, has been named bandleader of the new “Late Show,” hosted by Stephen Colbert after his predecessor, David Letterman’s final show was recently aired on CBS.
Colbert has followed suit with Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno’s replacement on NBC’s “Tonight Show,” who recruited the younger, progressive Black drummer Questlove and the Roots to perform the show’s music.
The Los Angeles times reported, “Batiste has been a rising star on the jazz festival circuit for years, and his most recent album, ‘Social Music,’ raised his profile even higher with a rollicking mix of New Orleans-forged jazz, R&B and funk.”
Batiste has often spoken of the value of bringing jazz to the people, and he evidently made an impression in a 2014 appearance on the “Colbert Report,” which culminated in a rolling street performance. “We call those ‘love riots,’” Batiste told the Times in 2014. “The idea is really just to use music as something that can bring people together and show the power of music to foster community.”
A new season of diversity is blossoming in late night television as Black musicians are being recognized and given leading roles as music directors. Batiste is continuing the tradition of bandleaders like Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong, who enjoyed a level of celebrity and the spotlight while maintaining compositional and leadership roles with large musical ensembles.
Batiste will balance his time working with Colbert and “The Late Show” with his new position as associate artistic director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and touring with his band, Stay Human.