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Trumpeter Nicholas Payton gives Louis Armstrong a vivacious overhaul

Wednesday, Feb 6 2002
Born and raised amongst brass bands on the legendary streets of the French Quarter, 28-year-old Nicholas Payton blows his horn with the vibrant energy of the original New Orleans jazz artists. Dearly departed old-timer Doc Cheatham -- who traded hot licks with the young trumpeter on their 1994 Grammy-winning collaboration -- once said, "I haven't heard anybody like him since Louis [Armstrong]."

While Payton embodies the bright, soaring tone and charismatic phrasing of the golden age of jazz, he's no revivalist. Even while touring as a teenager with former John Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones, Payton was shaping a signature sound that integrated both traditional and modern jazz concepts into a big-picture style. His latest Verve recording, Dear Louis, shows off this synthesis to great effect, taking a dozen of Satchmo's well-worn titles and giving them a harmonic overhaul that belies the project's mainstream pitch. Buoyant with Payton's characteristic exuberance and a colorful arrangement style clearly indebted to Duke Ellington, the album bubbles over with surprising depth and vivacity.

Despite Payton's commercial profile, he has earned the respect of radical players like the late Lester Bowie, who once applauded the trumpeter's honesty, verve, and authentic grasp of history. In an era of watered-down mainstream jazz, Payton is the real deal.

About The Author

Sam Prestianni


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