Want an Oscar? Be a late-night show bandleader whose film has ‘Soul’ in the title

A new — and highly specific — Oscar trend may be brewing. A year after Jon Batiste won Best Original Score for “Soul,” Questlove is Oscar-nominated for his documentary and directorial debut “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”. What do they have in common? Well, they’re both bandleaders of late-night talk shows whose Oscar contenders have “Soul” in the title. Coincidence?

Batiste shared Best Original Score honors with “Soul” co-composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, having provided original jazz compositions for the New York City-set scenes of the Pixar film and Best Animated Feature winner. He has been the bandleader of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” since its 2015 debut — Stephen Colbert was beaming like a proud papa after Batiste’s big night last year — and he may not be done pocketing hardware for “Soul.” The Oscar-winning trio could add a Grammy to their collection on April 3 for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media — one of a leading 11 Grammy bids Batiste earned this year. The 35-year-old is also up for Album of the Year for “We Are” and Record of the Year for “Freedom.”

SEE ‘Summer of Soul’ director Questlove on rediscovering the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival

Questlove, a five-time Grammy winner, is a Grammy nominee this year as well, in Best Music Film for “Summer of Soul,” which spotlights the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a six-week celebration of African-American music and culture that had been an obscure footnote in history until now. The Sundance hit has been bagging Best Documentary Feature accolades left and right all season and even became one of the rare documentaries to earn an editing nomination at the BAFTAs. Since 2009, Questlove — who’s credited on the film as Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson — and his band the Roots have served as the house band for Jimmy Fallon across his two shows, “Late Night” and “The Tonight Show,” which started in 2014.

Unsurprisingly, “Summer of Soul” is the favorite to win the Best Documentary Feature Oscar in the early odds over “Flee,” “Ascension,” “Attica” and “Writing with Fire.” So if that happens, we just need a third “Soul”-baring late-night bandleader to officially make this a trend. What is Fred Armisen working on?

Oscar odds for Best Documentary Feature
'Summer of Soul' is ahead

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