Eddie Barbash, founding member of 'The Late Show' house band, performs at the Breman Museum

Saxophonist Eddie Barbash, a co-founder of the "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" house band, performs in Atlanta on Oct. 20 at the Breman Museum. (Lena Nicholson)

When Stephen Colbert took over as host of “The Late Show,” he wanted a superb band to be part of the program. Saxophonist Eddie Barbash co-founded that band with Jon Batiste. Barbash, an extraordinary musician across genres who has collaborated with artists like Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma, performs in Atlanta on Oct. 20 at the Breman Museum. He joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom for a chat ahead of his concert.

Interview highlights:

Eddie Barbash reminisces on one of his first gigs:

“It was actually on the street outside the Breman Museum because there was a street fair going during the Jewish holidays,” Barbash recounted. “I think I was in the third or fourth grade and I really wanted a Nintendo 64, which was the gaming console of my childhood, and my dad was not a fan of video games so he wouldn’t buy me one. But he told me if I could make the money to buy one myself, he would let me buy one, and I realized that I could actually make some pretty quick money by playing saxophone on the street. So I brought a little book of band tunes and I had a book of simplified versions of the songs from ‘Fiddler on the Roof…’ I knew my audience. People threw dollar bills in my case as I played ‘If I Were a Rich Man.'”

Why he wanted to perform a concert in tribute to his grandparents:

“Murray, my grandfather, and Lillian, my grandmother, neither of them were musicians. My grandfather Murray tried to play the clarinet for a few years at one point but was so bad at it that he gave up, and I think everybody in the family was happy about that when he did,” said Barbash. “But they were very serious music lovers. My grandfather loved Louis Armstrong, and they loved classical music … Because of them I was exposed to a lot of great music from a really young age.”

He went on, “I would get to go to Broadway shows with them and go to the Metropolitan Opera with them and go see the symphony and whatnot. They were just really supporters of the arts … For one of their major anniversaries, they commissioned a piece to be played by Yo-Yo Ma, and they had so much fun doing that, that they did it two more times — commissioned works to be played. They’re just real music lovers.”

How Barbash chases down his sweet, nostalgic style of playing:

“There is a … great tradition of horn players playing ballads with strings, and I think the thing that I’ve done maybe a little bit that’s different from the way it’s been done before is that I really model my interpretations off of the singers that I love, doing these tunes. So when I play something like ‘I Only Have Eyes for You,’ I’m thinking of Fred Astaire doing it,” said Barbash. “I’m really thinking of trying to sing the melodies and then I try to always do a little something to set myself apart from the singers, whether that’s one or two flurries of notes that somebody wouldn’t be able to sing or a type of embellishment that wouldn’t be able to be sung.”

Strange tales from the “Late Show” stage:

“We got to play with Stevie Wonder, and of course playing with him was amazing. But one of the funniest and most memorable moments to me was when … everything’s always hectic when you’re filming on TV. There’s so many moving parts that, despite the final product always being amazing, it often feels like a tornado when you’re doing it. And so what was supposed to happen was he was supposed to finish his interview, come walk over to the bandstand and play one song with us and leave and have his segment be done. But for whatever reason, his assistant never came to get him after he finished playing the song with us and he couldn’t make his way off the stage on his own …We ended up jamming all the way back into the next segment.”

Eddie Barbash will perform with the KASA Quartet at the Bremen Museum on Oct. 20. Tickets and more information are available at www.thebreman.org/Events/An-Evening-with-Eddie-Barbash