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Trumpeter Nicholas Payton blows bright, melodic solos squarely in the middle register with all the sense of adventure of a back yard explorer, but there is still something compelling about the 24-year old’s playing. He has a trumpet tone as fat as his chipmunk cheeks and a slightly blurry sound that patinas whatever shine his overly polished solos reflect. With a 1997 Grammy for his collaboration with Doc Cheatham (who died at age 91 last year, the day after he and Payton played a gig at Blues Alley) and a spate of positive reviews for his New Orleans- and bop-inspired albums, Payton is poised to have his name dropped alongside trumpet titans Wynton Marsalis and Roy Hargrove, both of whom make appearances on his latest, Payton’s Place. While the liner notes mention the avant-garde, Place is filled with safe bebop burners like Rodgers and Hart’s “With a Song in My Heart,” and commercial guest spots by tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman on “A Touch of Silver” and Marsalis and Hargrove on “The Three Trumpeters,” as well as pleasant originals like “Time Traveling” and the Clifford Brown tribute “Brownie a la Mode.” But Payton’s take on Wayne Shorter’s classic “Paraphernalia” is dark and stuttering in a way that proves Payton has the chops and ideals to play beyond the entirely agreeable “Zigaboogaloo,” the Lee Morgan-like soul groover that begins the CD. Place is all good, but Payton could be great. At 8 p.m. & 10 p.m. Thursday & Friday, July 30 & 31; and 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and midnight Saturday, August 1 at Blues Alley, 1073 Rear Wisconsin Ave. NW. $18. (202) 337-4141. (Christopher Porter)