Stories » See Jon Batiste channel 'The Heroes' on The Late Show / RollingStone

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See Jon Batiste channel 'The Heroes' on The Late Show / RollingStone

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Jon Batiste, the bandleader for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, took centerstage on the program Wednesday night, when he performed a couple of songs from his upcoming Hollywood Africans LP, out Friday. For the soulful ballad "Don't Stop," the first song he performed, he played a moody line on a grand piano and sang tenderly about being in love. The room was darkened to match the mood of the song, and he also got a little accompaniment from an orchestral ensemble.

Before the performance, he explains how Hollywood Africans – which borrows its title from a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, an artist whose story he's bringing to Broadway – came to be. "T. Bone Burnett and I produced it together in a church that was converted into a studio in my hometown in New Orleans," he said. "The piano was in the middle of the room and we cut the lights out. [It was] completely pitch black for about three days, and I just tried to channel the heroes, you know, Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, through the instrument and become vulnerable in the room and let my truth come out of the instrument."