Jon Batiste returned to The Late Show for the first time since leaving his role as the show’s bandleader to catch up with host Stephen Colbert and perform songs from his album World Music Radio, which is up for Album of the Year and five other awards at the 2024 Grammys.

The decorated composer and musician first sat down to discuss life since leaving the show, from his impressive success to the “tough times” he has faced with his wife Suleika Jaouad as she’s battled leukemia. “It’s been a journey. It’s been a journey. Thank God for Stephen Colbert,” he tells his interviewer. That journey is documented in a new Netflix documentary, American Symphony, which started out as a project focused on his creative process but wound up being much more personal.

“When we started filming it, there was no Netflix. It was just my friend Matt who is the director and our family and I had this idea in my head, ‘Let’s make a boring process film about a guy from New Orleans who is reinventing a symphony.’ Big audience for that.”

Batiste goes on to tell the story of how the premiere of his work American Symphony was nearly derailed when the power went out on stage and all the microphones stopped working. Percussionist Joe Saylor recalls how Batiste’s ability to improvise saved the day, saying “My heart sank, but then I knew that you were going to do what you do best.”

The highlight of Batiste’s return to the Ed Sullivan Theater was a pair of inspired performances: “Butterfly”, which he says started out as a lullaby he wrote for his wife when she was going through cancer treatment, and “Worship”, which mixes gospel themes with African percussion and the spirit of his native New Orleans. Both songs earned Grammy nominations, including Best American Roots Performance and Song of the Year for “Butterfly” and Record of the Year for “Worship”.

Watch Jon Batiste discuss life and American Symphony and perform “Butterfly” and “Worship” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert below.

Batiste will embark on his first-ever headline tour starting in February. For a full list of tour dates and to purchase tickets, visit his website.

Jon Batiste – “Butterfly”

Jon Batiste – “Worship”