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Jon Batiste quits the Late Show With Stephen Colbert: here’s everything to know about the Grammy winner

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 15/08/2022 Elizabeth Gregory
64th Annual Grammy Awards, in Las Vegas © REUTERS 64th Annual Grammy Awards, in Las Vegas

Jon Batiste is leaving the Late Show with Stephen Colbert where he has been the bandleader for seven seasons.

Batiste was brought to the attention of an international audience back in April after the singer-songwriter won five Grammys. At the time he was still fairly unknown on this side of the pond, leaving most of the UK thinking – sorry, but who?

But we were quickly brought up to speed: The musician won five Grammys at the Las Vegas Award ceremony, including Album of the Year for We Are. He was nominated 11 times, the most of any artist this year, and he beat massive household names to get his gongs, including Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo.

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Since 2015, Batiste (and his band Stay Human) had been the house band of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, too, where they’ve played alongside musical powerhouses including Billy Joel, John Legend, Grace VanderWaal, and Nas.

Now Batiste is bowing out, with interim bandleader Louis Cato taking over the role.

“We’ve been so lucky to have a front row seat to Jon’s incredible talent for the past seven years,” Stephen Colbert said on the show. “We’re happy for you, Jon, and I can’t wait to have you back on as a guest with your next hit record.”

Cato said in a statement: “It has been one of the great honors of my life to work on this show, alongside some of the most talented musicians and creatives I know. Watching and learning from both Jon and Stephen for these past seven years, I’m genuinely excited to continue the tradition of excellence they’ve established.”

So if you’d like to know more about Batiste, we have you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about the Grammy-winning artist.

Music’s in his blood

Batiste comes from a family of New Orleans jazz and blues legends, which includes singer Lionel Batiste, drummer Russell Batiste Jr. and jazz trumpeter Milton Batiste. In an obituary of the latter in 2001, The Guardian it said he was known for his “flamboyant style and high-note attack”.

In his early 20s, Batiste moved to New York, attending performing arts school Juilliard. Now he’s married to journalist and author Suleika Jaouad, who wrote the Life, Interrupted column in the New York Times about facing cancer in her 20s.

Early starter

Given his background it’s no real surprise that Batiste released his first album when he was only 17. He then released a second while still at Juilliard, and made his concert debut at the age of 20.

He released Social Music in 2013. Jazz fans may know it – the album went to the top of Billboard and iTunes charts and stayed there for over a month. Then, after several further albums and a single, his cover of St James Infirmary Blues was nominated for a Grammy in 2019.

Batiste has also toured and acted: In HBO’s Treme, where he played himself, and in Spike Lee’s film Red Hook Summer, for which he also composed and performed the organ music.

A glittering night at the Grammys

So that brings us to the 2022 Grammys. Batiste’s winning album, We Are had only made it to No. 86 on the Billboard album chart, which was probably one of the main reasons for his incredulity at winning (plus he shared a category with Justin Beiber, Doja Cat and Kanye West, so you can forgive him for not really giving himself the best odds).

Over the past 10 years, winners of the Best Album award have always also been the year’s biggest artists – think Bruno Mars, Daft Punk, Adele and Taylor Swift. There have been a few winners outside of the popstar genre – for example Beck, Mumford & Sons and Arcade Fire – but Batiste is still very much an outlier within this crowd.

As a result, for music buffs, his win comes as one of the standout moments from the extravaganza.

Dressed in an oversized long black shirt with silver beading that resembled a sort of sparkling chainmail, Batiste also took to the stage for wins of Best Music Video, Best American Roots Performance, Best American Roots Song and Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media, for his work with Nine Inch Nails band members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on the Disney and Pixar animated film Soul.

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