Think of all the great jazz quintets over the years that have used trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, bass, and drums. They're at the core of the answer to the "What is Jazz?" question, and Nicholas Payton's fourth release as leader honors that tradition. Along with tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Adonis Rose, the young trumpeter weaves his modern mainstream compositions around echoes of jazz legends; nine of these twelve pieces are Payton's originals.
The trumpeter's father, New Orleans bassist Walter Payton, saw to it that his son was exposed to good music from his earliest years. Receiving his first trumpet at age four, sitting in on his father's rehearsals at the house, and performing with his father's jazz ensemble while still in grammar school, Payton had encouragement to suit his talent. Payton attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and the University of New Orleans, but it's the encouragement from family and friends such as Clark Terry, Ellis and Wynton Marsalis, and Doc Cheatham, that seems to have made its mark on the talented youngster; Payton turns 25 this year.
Guest Joshua Redman replaces Warfield on "A Touch of Silver" alongside the walking bass, swinging drummer and loping piano accompaniment. He and Payton work well together as a team. The effect is smooth and relaxed, yet they offer the listener just enough spice to keep it interesting. Wynton Marsalis assumes Warfield's chair on "Brownie a la Mode" as the two trumpeters engage in a good-natured cutting contest. "With a Song in my Heart" is performed up-tempo with guest Roy Hargrove sharing the spotlight. "The Three Trumpeters" brings the three together in an easy-going exchange. While Marsalis and Payton have distinctively brassy tones, Hargrove's contrasts and serves to round off the edges. Each trumpeter uses a gentle vibrato; they approach accented figures differently, and Marsalis supplies a few 1/2-valve phrases. Payton is in good "trumpet-tooting" company, good mainstream quintet company, and has already made quite a mark on the jazz world. Highly recommended.