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A Fireside Chat with Nicholas Payton

By Published: February 21, 2004

AAJ: Give me a preview of Sonic Trance.

NP: Texturally, this album is all over the place. It has a lot of keyboard instruments being employed. The addition of the percussionist to my ensemble has added a whole other coloration to the ensemble. He is not just a percussionist in terms of playing bongos or congas or cowbells. He has a series of tuned bells and different horns and gongs that he uses and he is like another musician, as opposed to just a percussionist. He is very melodic. Also, I am using a lot of effects modules on the trumpet, which has allowed me a better range of sounds to deal with, influencing my ideas to hear differently because when I hear the sounds processed in different ways, it makes me think differently, conceptually. It is very groove oriented and very much embraces contemporary hip hop and R&B and rock rhythms, but it is still very much within the tradition as most of the people who I admire like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis. To me, they always made records that were always very poignant and timely, in that they really embraced the feelings of the time and the era in which they lived when they were making those records. That was my thought in doing that for today.

AAJ: Who is in the new band?

NP: I have Tim Warfield on sax, who is still with me from the quintet, along with Adonis Rose on drums. So a part of that sound still remains as a core unit of what I am doing now. New additions have been Vicente Archer on bass, Kevin Hays on piano, and Daniel Sadownick on percussion.

AAJ: Is there such a thing as a New Orleans sound?

NP: Yeah, I think so. I think there is a certain feeling that New Orleans has just by virtue of the cross-cultural nature of the city, being the only place in America, where you have that fusion of the African rhythms, one of the only places where African slaves were allowed to still practice their drums, that meshed with the Native American traditions and European classical harmony. That is why New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and that is the only place it could have come from. I think New Orleans musicians embody that type of feeling.

AAJ: You guested on Greg Osby's new St. Louis Shoes session.

NP: Yeah, I really admire Greg. He is a masterful musician, composer, and player. I really respect his quest for not getting into any bags and any molds. Even when people think he is this guy who has this eclectic brand of music and composes these angular pieces, he goes and does a record of standards with a lot of cats that are established on the scene. He constantly is reinventing himself and that is something I have really a lot of admiration for. It was a pleasure working with him and it was one of the best recording sessions I have ever been a part of.

AAJ: And the future?

NP: I am taking it light right now. I don't have too many gigs. We have been working quite a bit so far with the new band and the response has been very favorable. I am pretty confident that people who have been Nicholas Payton fans will continue to be so because it is not so different from what I have done. Whatever will be, I can say that I am really into trying to play music that is indicative of the times in which I live and doing something fresh and different. I really spent a lot of time trying to address the fundamentals of this music. Now, I just think it is time for me to try and take more chances and stick my neck out a bit and see what happens.

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