Jon Batiste: on 'love riots,' 'Late Show,' and all that jazz

By Kaye Foley

Jazz musician Jon Batiste has found his groove. At just 28, he’s performed in more than 40 countries, had a No. 1 album on the jazz charts and will be sharing the stage as bandleader with the new Late Show host Stephen Colbert starting September 8 on CBS.

Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric met up with Batiste at the Blue Note, the legendary jazz club in Greenwich Village, New York, to play some tunes and chat about all that jazz.


Growing up in Kenner, La., a suburb of New Orleans, Batiste was surrounded by music. Coming from a long line of musicians, Batiste first sharpened his musical chops playing the conga drums in the family band, the Batiste Brothers Band, formed by his father and uncles. At 11 years old, he switched to piano and never looked back. By the time Batiste was 17, he had already released two albums and was on his way to Juilliard to study jazz and classical.

JAZZ 2.0

Batiste and his band, Stay Human, have been credited with innovations to traditional jazz, blending standards with different styles and genres — be it R&B, rock, or pop, and taking their music to the streets with their so-called social music.

He describes social music as “music without any genre boundaries or borders. [It’s] about bringing people together who otherwise wouldn’t come together.” Stay Human has performed all over the world — from subway trains to ski slopes.


On September 8, Batiste will be taking up the mantle of bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, supported by his band, Stay Human. Batiste and Colbert first met in 2014 on Colbert’s Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report.

“I felt an energy,” recalled Batiste. “And then he did, too. And we kept speaking over time. And eventually it became a conversation about the show, the next show.” Colbert has said that he “can’t wait to play off [Batiste’s] energy.”


Rooted in the band’s concept of social music, Batiste and Stay Human have become known for their impromptu, second line-like parades called “love riots.” The first time they took to the streets, their performance drew around 300 people and had such high energy that Batiste said it looked like a riot. “The energy was very frenetic. But nobody was breakin’ stuff or hurtin’ anybody. So it’s a love riot.”

With a melodica in hand and his bandmates by his side, Batiste’s mission to connect with people through music and remind them to “stay human” has taken him all over the world. Come this September, it’ll bring him to your living room five nights a week.