“I wasn’t interested in playing ‘tunes,’” says Nicholas Payton. “So the concept of ‘takes’ wasn’t going to work. We’d start something as I sketched it, then obliterate that and take it somewhere else. No one knew what to expect and that was what made it exciting.”
Sonic Trance firmly establishes Nicholas Payton in the jazz world of musical diversity. His first Warner release demonstrates how he has grown from traditional roots into a new escape of synthetic and acoustic textures. If art itself happens all around us, then 68 minutes of Sonic Trance sparks that art within us.
The greatest value of this record is clearly its aesthetic journey through the fusion of many ideas framed in many styles. Some songs are mixed together as are disparate sections within a whole. The album’s compositions range from 47 seconds to over 7 minutes and if you really dig this music you won’t know the difference. It all works together.
Sonic Trance is largely built on pleasing contrasts: between sax and trumpet voices; between dislocated rhythm and rhythmic horn parts; between groove and spatial abstraction. We feel one part in able to discover the other, and the process feeds back on itself. This is especially true on three tunes that Payton divided into reprisals: “Fela,” “Cannabis Leaf Rag” and “Tantric.” The record opens ambitiously with an all-encompassing three-minute blend of musical tangents and sampling environments.
Numerous songs in this collection beg to be seen live: “Fela 1,” “Tantric” and “Two Mexicans on the Wall” – a three movement suite with a hilarious beginning of punch-drunk Mexican warblings.
Lest we forget, Nicholas Payton knows how to laugh. The first 90 seconds of “Cannabis Leaf Rag 1” bastardizes Scott Joplin enough to put the listener on the floor. The sounds in "Tantric: Lewd Interlude" step all over themselves. “Shabba Un-Ranked” makes for nice rap, although the lyrics are not exactly for a family audience. It is nice to know that Payton’s music can giggle too.
The midway mark brings us a little closer to jazz ensemble work and here, Payton’s group shines. Although the Romantic Reprise of “Séance” finds Adonis Rose in rhythmic displacement, the horn tandem of Payton and Tim Warfield soothes our ears. Rose and bassist Vicente Archer combine on “Fela 2” to provide Payton a chance to trip out on the scales of harmonic improvisation. “Tantric” provides a primal yet exploratory 4/4 feel with Kevin Hays shining on keyboards. Karriem Riggins is felt more than heard throughout this record; much of its sonic environment is owed to the taste with which he applies samplers and synthesizers.
Sonic Trance emphasizes its mission to explore the tasteful use of electronic sound in a distinct jazz foreground. “Two Mexicans on A Wall” includes a completely fluid musical backdrop from which Nicholas Payton extends his technical prowess. On “Toys in Babeland,” trumpet is used as a voice of abstract cognition – perhaps a most fitting end to a record that reaches so high.
Listen to the whole record and stay seated briefly afterwards. You may feel a bit stretched.
Personnel: Nicholas Payton (vocals, trumpet, flugelhorn, keyboards, bass, drums); Tim Warfield (soprano and
tenor saxophone); Kevin Hays (vocals, recorder, keyboards, piano); Vicente Archer (bass); Adonis
Rose (drums); Daniel Sadownick (percussion); Karriem Riggins (sampler and synthesizer).
Record Label: Warner Bros.