Dear Louis is based upon Nicholas Payton's commissioned tribute to jazz icon Louis Armstrong and was recorded primarily during the year 2000. The CD features 13 songs primarily popularized by Louis Armstrong with Payton performing some priceless trumpet solos in the stellar company of his 14-piece band. He is joined by special guest vocalists Dr. John and Dianne Reeves. Nicholas Payton premiered his original title track, "Dear Louis," as a quartet feature at Lincoln Center as part the commission that spurred the recording. On this record, the trumpeter's big band expands the musical concept with such mastery that it is hard to fathom it scaled for quartet. Dear Louis opens with "Potato Head Blues," which features a re-harmonized melody and a rearrangement of Armstrong's original break. Payton's use of a conga solo by Kenyatta Simon adds a colorful dimension to "Hello Dolly," while "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You" gives listeners another side of Payton the vocalist. Dianne Reeves turns in a great performance on "Blues in the Night," one of Payton's favorite Armstrong records, whose original vocals were performed by Ella Fitzgerald. Reeves also sings a dynamic rendition of "Sunny Side of the Street." The set closes with "West End Blues," with Payton capturing Armstrong's classic introduction before launching into a straight-ahead blues shuffle. As a whole, the artist captures the fiery trajectories of Armstrong's classic solos with a command not heard since the master himself performed many of them. Each and every song on the CD truly belongs to Payton and company, and the listener in no way is ever offered a simple rehash of Armstrong's style. Their playing is solid, deserves admiration, and listeners can be forever grateful to Payton for capturing the true essence of the Armstrong jazz legacy through his own personal sound. Nicholas Payton plays trumpet, flugelhorn, Fender Rhodes electric piano in addition to vocals and writing all of the arrangements. Dear Louis is by far the best CD recorded by the artist to date and offers a remarkable perspective for appreciating how far the young genius has come since making his Verve debut, From This Moment.
AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein
feat: Reuben Rogers
feat: Dianne Reeves
feat: Louis Payton
feat: Dr. John