As one of the youngest musicians to ever serve as a late night show’s bandleader, Jon Batiste was in desperate need of advice when his jazz group Stay Human landed its high-profile gig on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” in 2015.
Luckily, the Juilliard-trained star was able to pick the brains of some of his colleagues and predecessors, including his pal Questlove of The Roots, who brings the beats every night for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Batiste even got the chance to chat about the job with David Letterman’s longtime, “Late Show” bandleader Paul Shaffer, thanks in part to a suprising conversation with Chevy Chase.
“I called all those guys. I knew Questlove from before,” Batiste tells Metro. “I was introduced to Paul Shaffer, actually through Chevy Chase, who’s a great pianist. He was like, ‘You should meet my friend Paul if you’re going to do that gig,’ and I was like, ‘Definitely!'”
After talking with Questlove, Shaffer and even former “Tonight Show” musicians like Branford Marsalis and Kevin Eubanks, Batiste felt ready to take on his new role, as well as an extreme sense of pride in being apart of such an illustrious group of late night legends.
“There’s not really a lot of people you can talk to who are alive who’ve done it,” Batiste says. “It was like I joined a fraternity. We’re related in that way. It’s a small lineage, but it’s amazing to be apart of it.”
While he’s definitely got a lot of work on his plate backing up Colbert night in and night out, Batiste still somehow finds the time to perform and work on solo projects, such as an upcoming record that he’s been working on with the iconic T Bone Burnett. The 31-year-old musician is set to take over The Sinclair in Cambridge later this month when his “Solo in the Round” tour comes to town.
Batiste can’t wait to make his return to the Hub, as he has several great memories of Boston from over the years. The city served as the site of one of his first ever east coast performances.
“I just moved to New York to go to Julliard. One of my first gigs in New York was with Abbey Lincoln, the late jazz singer, and we played a week at Scullers,” Batiste says. “I must’ve been 16 or 17 years old. Even before then, I went to a few music programs when I was in high school at Berklee College of Music over the summer. I have a lot of history with Boston.”
The talented musician hopes his live performances showcase “the rawest form” of his musical expression.
“For me, it balances my experience in all the great things that I’m doing on the show with something that’s just back to basics,” Batiste says. “[It’s] really just about me being honest with the audience and opening myself in a way that I don’t get to do on TV in front of 3 million with this big machine.”
Whether it’s on stage or in front of a camera, all Batiste wants to do with his music is bring people together.
“I feel like we’re in a time of great concern and there’s a lot of division in the world in a way that I haven’t experienced for a while, or maybe even ever,” Batiste says. “Bringing people together has always been a big part of whatever project I’m involved in, especially things that I’m leading.”
If you go:
March 14, The Sinclair, 52 Church St., Cambridge, $25, sinclaircambridge.com