Nicholas Payton

Nick@Night

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By the last years of the 1990s, Nicholas Payton's trumpet-playing and leadership abilities were growing in leaps and bounds in live performance. However, the valedictory record of that decade displays growth only in the former and mostly caution in the latter, for Payton remains staunchly committed to the neo-bop verities and ceremonies. Part of the problem is that Payton's material -- he contributes ten of the 13 tracks -- is still not terribly memorable by and large, although he may be developing a distinctive talent for naming tunes. You gotta love titles like "Captain Crunch (Meets the Cereal Killer)" and "Nick@Night," but the music is strictly traditional stuff, refusing to transcend the ordinary. There are exceptions early and late on the disc when touches of instrumental enterprise peek through; "Beyond the Stars" would sound like an ordinary slice of post-bop were it not for the fact that Anthony Wonsey (and Payton!) are playing harpsichords, adding a sting from an instrument not explored much in jazz since the swing era. The multi-sectioned "Faith" also has its best moments when backed by harpsichord and celeste, and "Sun Goddess," a tune done by Ramsey Lewis in the '70s, has a striking harpsichord-backed opening. There is no doubt that Payton's choice of notes and use of space continues to mature, and his quintet -- with Wonsey on piano, Tim Warfield on saxophones, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Adonis Rose on drums -- just gets tighter and more intuitively interactive.

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