New music spotlight: Nicholas Payton

Authored by: 
Published on: September 1st, 2015


Nicholas Payton performing at Jazz Fest 2008 [Photo by Leon Morris]
Nicholas Payton performing at Jazz Fest 2008 [Photo by Leon Morris]

Nicholas Payton has a new double album out on his own label, Paytone Records, titled "Letters." In the 26 tracks within, Payton truly runs the gamut from A to Z-- literally, as each track is named after a letter of the alphabet. The talented trumpeter hops instruments on this release, spending significant time on piano, keyboard, and Hammond B-3 organ, as well as the horn.

The multi-instrumentalist gets dramatic on "H" and "S," which also contains fantastic cymbal play. "U," "C," and "E" are especially beautiful arrangements. Payton really shows his range on tracks like funky "W" and "V," and even touches on some wild 1960s garage rock tinges on "F for Axel Foley." "N for the Piano Players" and "O" invoke seasonal thoughts with wintery sounds on the former and springtime in the latter.

Payton is a New Orleans-reared musician, having come up as a trumpeter under the tutelage of his father in the Young Tuxedo Brass Band as a child in the 1970s and 1980s. He attended NOCCA and the University of New Orleans before going on to sign with Verve Records. Payton has recorded with many notable names in the business, including Ray Charles, Dr. John, Herbie Hancock, Allen Toussaint, and Dr. Michael White. He was named Jazz Artist-in-Residence at Tulane University for the 2011-2012 academic year. In 1997, he received a Grammy Award (Best Instrumental Solo) for his playing on the album Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton. Payton is impressively prolific; he came out with his well-regarded 13-track album "Numbers" just last year and followed it up yet another high-quality release this summer.

Payton, like all good New Orleanians, is a big proponent of live music. From his website: “Okay, you can stay at home and Spotify, or YouTube, or you can get off your ass and come listen to what real musicians making real music sound like. And, hey, it doesn’t have to be me, but if I’m in town, then yeah, you should definitely check me out.” He will be appearing at Tableau in the French Quarter each Thursday this month from 5-9p, and also has multiple appearances scheduled in New York City in the coming months.

"Letters" is available on CD at Louisiana Music Factory and MP3 at iTunes and Amazon.

Check out a free preview of five of the tracks here. A live performance of "C" is below.


More New Music Spotlight

Get the 'OZone monthly newsletter
facebook logo
Like us on Facebook
Volunteer at WWOZ
Hear it here!