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Nicholas Payton 

I was trying to call forth a lot of memories of my childhood and the nostalgic impression of music that made me fall in love with jazz music," explains trumpeter Nicholas Payton about his latest album Into the Blue, his first solo release recorded in New Orleans. His previous efforts had been recorded in New York. "I didn't want the distractions of home getting in the way. I wanted an environment where I could just make music," Payton says. "With this record, I could do it here because I'm not trying to do anything with this record. I'm not out to prove anything or do a concept. I'm trying to play music and do it in a way that could be peaceful and loving and beautiful, and yet have the complexity for the listener who wants to go deeper. It's all about relaxing and letting it be and enjoying the creative process as it is at the day and moment."

The record has a wonderful sound that reflects the joy and intimacy of five musicians making music. It's different from his work in the repertory group SF Jazz Collective, which features music by the great jazz composers, or his wild, electronic record Sonic Trance.

'My earlier records were focused on continuing the tradition of jazz music, and Sonic Trance was trying to break free from that," Payton says. "This record settles on a middle point from those polarities." The album features both swinging and meditative jazz with Payton's poised trumpet work guiding the band with its Fender Rhodes (electric piano) touches and communal playing. "I'm a child of the "70s," Payton says. "So that sound of the lush Fender Rhodes in the music of Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire and the bands that my dad (New Orleans bassist Walter Payton) played in was the sound I heard." To bring the music even closer to what he heard as a youth, Payton included two of his father's earliest compositions, "Drucilla" and "Nida."

At Jazz Fest, Payton and the band that he used to record the album — minus Houston pianist Robert Glasper — will play some of its material. Ivory Coast vocalist Cecile Verny will join the group. Payton, however, will be the only horn.

'I had to do a gig once when my sax player couldn't make it, and I was like, "Wow!'" he says. "With two horns, you have to arrange it a certain way. Without having to compromise my lines for another horn player, I could play the notes however I want. It was liberating in a strange way. A lot of times after two horn solos, it can get boring anyway. I'd be doing like Miles did to Herbie Hancock and walking in on his solo to take it out. This way everybody can solo and we don't have to worry about it."

click to enlarge Nicholas Payton will play music off his new album Into the Blue (4:05 p.m. Sunday, April 27, WWOZ Jazz Tent). - MICHAEL WILSON
  • Michael Wilson
  • Nicholas Payton will play music off his new album Into the Blue (4:05 p.m. Sunday, April 27, WWOZ Jazz Tent).
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