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Jon Batiste: Day & Late Nite

The New Orleanian settles comfortably into the role of talkshow bandleader

Jon Batiste (left) and Stephen Colbert
Jon Batiste (right) and Stephen Colbert
Jon Batiste
Jon Batiste
Jon Batiste at the 2015 Newport Jazz Festival, with saxophonist Grace Kelly at right (photo: Alan Nahigian)

Jon Batiste had one request, early in the courtship dance that led to his installment as bandleader for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on CBS. Batiste-the irrepressible young pianist and singer, and the engine behind the trademark phrases “Love Riot” and “Social Music”-wanted his new boss to meet his folks. So they went down to Kenner, La., just outside New Orleans, for some red beans and rice at the Batiste family home.

During the trip, Colbert filmed the online video snippet that would serve as an announcement of Batiste’s hire. (Naturally, it involved a beignet gag.) He also imparted a kernel of insight to his new collaborator about the nature of their upcoming gig. Don’t think of the show as the brand-name commercial property of a massive corporate conglomerate, Colbert advised, even if that’s ultimately what it is. “Think of it as the Joy Machine,” Batiste recalls him saying, eyes gleaming. “And we’re going to take it for a ride.”

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