Jon Batiste, the Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist who led The Late Show’s house band since it launched in 2015, has stepped down. He has been taking a summer hiatus from the CBS talk show, and it was announced Thursday night that Louis Cato will be replacing him as the permanent bandleader.
The show’s producer, Joey McFarland, said the two men “were at a crossroads.” He did not elaborate, but it’s likely that Batiste wanted to spend more time with his wife (he has a new baby) and perhaps felt that playing four nights a week on a talk show was not ideal for him professionally.
It’s also possible that he simply grew tired of the grind. After seven years, he may have decided he was ready to take on a new challenge.
He and the band, Stay Human, did a fantastic job of cheering Colbert’s monologue from the piano every night and accompanying musical guests. They also came up with tunes on the fly during the COVID-19 pandemic, proving that they were a true late-night band.
As a musician, I can appreciate that Batiste wanted to pursue other opportunities in music, but he should never have been made to feel like a second-class citizen at the show. He is a talented musician, and his contributions to the show were invaluable. In fact, I think he helped improve the show to an extent that it would have been hard to replicate with any other band.