Like a master chef possessing a deft sense of proportion, taste and poetic flair, this forward-looking heir to the traditions of New Orleans blends an array of related musical food groups—Bebop, Swing, the Great American Songbook, New Orleans second-line, Mardi Gras Indian, Instrumental Soul, Rhythm-and-Blues, Urban, Hip-Hop, and various Afro-descended dialects of Central America and the Caribbean—into a focused sound that is entirely his own argot.
For the past few years, trumpet Nicholas Payton has been trying to stretch beyond the confines of the label “jazz” and create his own mix of sounds. Gone are the days with Doc Cheatham or even his tribute to Bitches Brew; now, he is attempting to create a horn for the world. Besides trumpet, he sings, plays various keyboards, tapes and percussion and employs Kevin Hays/key, Vincente Archer/b, Joe Dyson/dr, Daniel Sadownick/perc, DJ Lady Fingaz/samples, Blake Leyh cello-effects, Weedie Braimah/perc and a string ensemble. What’s more, he slices in the words of luminaries ranging from Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie and other notables as inspiration and guidance.
The result is a two disc collection of 22 pieces that mix hip hop, rap, fusion and wonderfully grooved jazz in a fascinating gumbo. Payton’s horn never sounded better, and whether the environment is spacey synthesizers on “Jewel,” Third World percussion on “Afro-Caribbean Mixtape” the electronic 8 to the bar of “Junie’s Boogie” or various tapes and effects on “Jazz is A Four Letter Word,” the music and mood makes perfect sense. Moments of hip hop as on ”El Guajiro” or gentle reflections by piano and bass on “Ma dmawazel Ayiti” display the wide waterfront that this album covers, while voices and horns gasp on “Othello” and Payton leads the team through a hip soul groove on “#BAMboula.” Like the best of the 60s variety shows, this album has something for everyone, and a lot for most of us. Lots of vision that is clear. (George W. Harris)