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Nicholas Payton: Afro-Caribbean Mixtape

Mark F. Turner By

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In 2011 New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton set fire to social media with his outspoken views on the death of jazz, race and Black American music. The backdraft produced not only fiercely opposing views but also hate-mail directed towards Payton. While the debate continues on what is and what isn't jazz, there's never been a question about Payton's talent or abilities. Throughout his discography as a Postmodern New Orleans musician, Payton's mastery of the horn is without reproach and sung with complete authenticity. His urgency to continue to grow is displayed in Afro-Caribbean Mixtape which integrates jazz, social commentary, Hip Hop and R&B with Afro-descended dialects of Central America and the Caribbean.

Like a DJ, Payton's splices 22 tracks across 2 discs of vibrant music performed by a top notch band which includes keyboardist Kevin Hays and percussionist Daniel Sadownick who both played on Payton's 2003 release Sonic Trace (Warner Brothers). Laid back grooves coalesce with insightful quotes from influential thinkers and musicians such like drummer Max Roach in "Jazz is a Four-Letter Word." One of coolest is the title track; a throwback to the 70's as Payton's electrically augmented horn serenades alongside a funky rhythm.

Afro Caribbean rhythms flow through "La Guajira" as Payton's band dances with traditional claves then test the waters of experimental psychedelia in "El Guajiro" lifted by Payton's expressive trumpet permutations, Sadownick's fragrant percussion and outstanding traps from drummer Joe Dyson. There's a funky Herbie Hancock Headhunter—vibe to "Kimathi" where DJ Lady Fingaz works her magic on turntables.

Though Disc 2 leans more towards elements of urban dance it is nonetheless persuasive in merging different music styles. "Jewel" opens with opulent strings and Vicente Archer's bowing arco while Payton provides a rhapsodic solo. It dovetails nicely into "Junie's Boogie" which could've been a jam heard in a Don Cornelius "Soul Trail" line, complete with swaying Afros, Bellbottom pants and platform shoes. This is Soul music that swings. One of the gems is "Othello" where the multitalented Payton's vocals are as impressive as his horn with its Monkish "Round Midnght" feel and bebop swing.

In spite of its many categorizations and what some would call the dilution of the four letter J word, jazz is intrinsically linked to the Black music experience of which Payton's Afro-Caribbean Mixtape celebrates. This is music you can enjoy on many levels regardless of what you label it.

Track Listing: Disc 1: Tape Intro; Afro-Caribbean Mix; ACM Remix 1; #BAMboula; Intro to Kimathi; Jazz is a Four-Letter Word; La Guajira; El Guajiro; ACM Remix 2; Madmwazel Ayiti; Kimathi (Main Theme); Disc 2:Jewel; Junie's Interlude; Junie's Boogie; Othello; Kimathi (for our Elders and out Children); Jazz is a Four-Letter; Relexification (Midnight at Tyler's); Kimathi (Cotton Gin_Tonic); The Egyptian Second Line; ACM Remix 3; Call and Response.

Personnel: Nicholas Payton: trumpet, piano, vocals; Kevin Hays: keyboards; Vicente Archer: bass; Joe Dyson: drums. Daniel Sadownick: percussion; DJ Lady Fingaz: turntablist.

Title: Afro-Caribbean Mixtape | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Paytone Records


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