Nicholas Payton


Trumpeter Nicholas Payton could have easily been a Wyntonite—a young jazz musician so taken by Wynton Marsalis’ neoconservative propaganda about jazz’s tradition that he discredits any influences that Wynton deems uncouth. But Nick@Night, Payton’s latest album, proves that jazz can absorb pop trends, ’70s fusion, and R&B without sacrificing its legacy. After one listen to Payton’s victorious trumpet, it’s obvious that he recognizes the instrument’s defining role in jazz. On his original “Captain Crunch (Meets the Cereal Killer),” his full-bodied tone evokes Louis Armstrong’s sexy swagger and cliffhanging suspense. Payton also distinguishes himself as a member of the post-Motown bop generation with the smoldering funk-bop ballad “Faith,” which he dedicates to Nu Soul songstress Faith Evans; the heavenly excursion “Little Angel,” which features Anthony Wonsey’s halogen electric piano; and the gleeful rendition of “Sun Goddess,” Ramsey Lewis and Earth Wind & Fire’s immortal 1974 fusion classic. Sharing the front with Payton is saxophone titan Tim Warfield, whose soulful wails and corkscrew solos sometimes rival Payton’s magnificent playing. Uncouth, maybe; marvelous, certainly.— John Murph