After seven seasons, Jon Batiste is stepping down as the leader of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert‘s house band, Stay Human, the host announced on Thursday. Longtime band member Louis Cato will take up the mantle and lead what will now be known simply as The Late Show Band.
Cato has led the CBS late-night talk show’s house band all summer while Batiste has taken a leave of absence. With Batiste unavailable, Colbert, Cato, and company have tinkered with the house band formula. Over the last past month, acclaimed artists including St. Vincent, James Taylor, and Joe Walsh have joined Cato and the band for weeklong residences.
On Thursday night’s episode, Colbert made the change official. As he explained toward the end of the show, “I’ve got some news about our dear friend Jon Batiste. Now, sharp-eyed viewers may have noticed that Jon hasn’t been here this summer. Well, I have an update: Jon has decided to leave the show.” When the studio crowd sighed its regrets, Colbert added, “I know, I feel the same the same way, but it’s for all the best reasons—including to continue sharing his art with the world.”
Batiste’s art has undoubtedly made an impact in the last year. His 11 Grammy Award nominations for 2021’s WE ARE made him the most-nominated artist at the 2022 ceremony, where he took home four wins including “Album of the Year”. He has also dealt with some recent hardships. Earlier this year, he quietly married his longtime partner, Suleika Jaouad, as she began treatment for a cancer diagnosis. News of Batiste’s 11 Grammy nominations came in November of 2021, right as Jaouad began chemotherapy. “We’re sitting in this chemo suite together and these phone calls of congratulations are coming and we’re having to hold these two realities,” Jaouad shared during an interview with CBS Sunday Morning.
As Colbert continued on Thursday, “We wanted to give Jon a big in-person sendoff … but Jon’s not in town. I hope he’s cutting his new album, and I hope it’s called More Grammys, Please. We have been so lucky to have a front-row seat to Jon’s incredible talent for the last seven years. And will we miss him here?” Colbert asked before throwing his head back and smiling wide for his best Batiste impression, “Yeaaaahh! But we’re happy for you, Jon, and I can’t wait to back on as a guest with your next hit record. I love you.”
“As happy as I am for Jon, I am thrilled for us,” he went on, “because I have the privilege to announce that this incredible band is staying right there and that our new bandleader is the one, the only, Louis Cato, ladies and gentlemen. If you’ve been watching, and I hope you have, you know that Louis has done a great job this summer, and he’s very humble so he won’t say this, but I will: He is a musical genius. He can basically play every instrument on that stand over there. Give him an afternoon, he’ll learn how to play Mozart on a shoehorn.”
Louis Cato is a Grammy-nominated and internationally acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, producer, and songwriter. He has worked with an array of artists including Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, John Legend, Talib Kweli, Snarky Puppy, David Sanborn, George Duke, Bobby McFerrin, Marcus Miller, John Scofield, and A Tribe Called Quest. His love of music started at age 2 when the purchase of his first drum set evolved into an appreciation of the southern gospel from his native North Carolina and continued into his education at the Berklee College of Music. Since joining the Late Show band he has been a fixture of the New York music scene, regularly popping up around the city to take part in events like Brooklyn Comes Alive, sit in with artists like Cory Wong, and more.
Cato, who has been with The Late Show since its launch with Colbert, will be joined in the new iteration of the band by Joe Saylor, who has performed alongside himsince the show’s inception, and longtime house band members Louis Fouché, Jon Lampley, Endea Owens and Nêgah Santos. The eighth season of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert will premiere on Tuesday, September 6th on CBS.
“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,” Cato said in a statement on the new gig. “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.”
Congrats, Louis! We can’t wait to watch the Cato era on The Late Show unfold. Watch Stephen Colbert’s announcement about his new bandleader below.
Introducing Louis Cato and The Late Show Band