Nicholas Payton Quintet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Nicholas Payton Quintet


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On his first CD, the splendid young trumpeter Nicholas Payton offered up a pleasant case of musical schizophrenia. On the one hand, he played some of the tunes associated with the classic jazz of his hometown New Orleans, and he played them in the classic New Orleans style handed down by Louis Armstrong in the 20s. (With his short burly build, Payton even looks a bit like Armstrong--and I've heard him play with enough of Armstrong's hot tone and rawboned swagger to raise the hairs on the back of my head.) On the other hand, Payton's debut disc featured several tunes in a more contemporary vein--flowing, lyrical, and ultimately indistinguishable from the many excellent young hornmen now at work. Now, on the newly released Gumbo Nouveau (Verve), Payton has found the corpus callosum between these two halves of his musical personality, applying new lessons to old tunes. This technique allows him to stay close to his roots without actually reviving the past, carving out a noteworthy niche largely his own. He uses modernist rhythms and postbop harmonies in his treatments of such New Orleans antiques as "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans"--tunes that lose their hoary stubble under Payton's razor-sharp reinterpretations. Payton hasn't lost his gift for jazz restoration: he does a terrific job of capturing the sound of his mentors on the sound track of Robert Altman's upcoming film Kansas City. But in bringing his soulful, straightforward simplicity of line to newer material, he charts a course worth hearing both now and as it develops. Saturday, 7 PM, and Sunday, 8 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Minchin.

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