Nicholas Payton

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Only 22 at the time of this CD, Nicholas Payton had already quickly developed into a major trumpeter. Possessing a fat tone that is sometimes reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard, by the mid-'90s Payton had become New Orleans' latest significant contribution to jazz. On his second Verve release, Payton interprets and modernizes ten songs associated with his hometown and/or Louis Armstrong. Fortunately, Payton generally retains the flavor and joy of the original versions, even while he transforms much of the music into hard bop. To cite a few examples, "Whoopin' Blues" has parade rhythms, send-offs worthy of Lionel Hampton, and boppish solos, "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" is taken as a slow and lightly swinging ballad, and "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" is turned into a jazz waltz. "Li'l Liza Jane" becomes a largely unrecognizable hard bop romp and this version of "When the Saints Go Marching In" is a bit melancholy, but "Wild Man Blues" is a real tour de force for the trumpeter and the duet between Payton and pianist Anthony Wonsey on "Weather Bird" has the leader liberally quoting from Louis Armstrong's classic version. Throughout the date, Payton is the lead voice, pianist Wonsey is the main supporting player, and there are occasional solos from altoist Jesse Davis and tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield. New Orleans jazz purists may not care for all of the updating, but the overall results are fresh and quite likable. Recommended.

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