When Stephen Colbert made his debut Tuesday night as host of the "Late Show" on CBS, he was alongside Louisiana musician Jonathan Batiste, who was enthusiastically tapping at piano keys and jamming on his melodica. The 28-year-old jazz virtuoso is now Colbert's bandleader, and has become known for being a force on the stage, engaging the audience in performances.
Batiste credits his beginnings in music to his Louisiana roots, having been raised by a musical family in a town outside of New Orleans. He was just eight years old when he began playing percussion for a family band. "I’m from Kenner, Louisiana, where music is played for every occasion in life,” Batiste told the Wall Street Journal.
After growing up learning to play a number of instruments, Batiste studied at the Juilliard School in New York under the direction of jazz legend Wynton Marsalis. He played all around the city for his 2011 album "MY N.Y." and began his own group called the Stay Human Band. Batiste has also shown a knack for collaboration, performing with a number of musicians including Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Aloe Blacc and Jimmy Buffett.
He's become known for his freewheeling style and eclectic, crowd-gathering street performances, which Batiste dubbed "love riots." The goal, Batiste has said, is to make music a social experience, which should work well for a TV talk show hosted by a comedian. The musician will apparently have creative freedom and has already begun to blend well with Colbert, who does not shy away from taking risks.
"The team there, we have a very similar philosophy and vision about the way they do jokes and the way we do music," Batiste told Rolling Stone ahead of the show's debut. "In another scenario I wouldn't even take a day gig like that because I think it would be too restrictive."
In traditional performances Batiste often mirrors the "love riot" street experience by delving into the audience, something he did in when he appeared on Colbert's Comedy Central show "The Colbert Report" last year. After talking with Batiste during the interview, Colbert was immediately a fan.
"As soon as that interview was over," Colbert said on his show's podcast, via Billboard, "I went, 'Damn, I think that’s a guy I could actually spend a few years onstage with.'"