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Live Review

Nicholas Payton's Louis Armstrong Centennial Celebration At U.C.L.A.


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Submitted on behalf of Bob Margolis

Nicholas Payton with Doc Cheatham Iridum Room NYC
Perhaps the last appearances given by the legendary Doc Cheatham took place during this weeks long run with one of his many disciples, the up and coming fine trumpeter, Nicholas Payton. Appearing with longtime foil, Red Nichols and the rhythm section currently being used by Payton, Cheatham played a bit, sang a bit and generally seemed to be enjoying himself and his audience. Playing in support of their new Verve release, Doc and Nick, the bulk of the material was pulled from the wealth of material found on the disc. A fine version of Jeepers Creepers had the sold-out Iridium crowd smiling and ready for more. More is what they got when Cheatham decided to play a beautiful rendition of Skylark along with his much younger mate, Payton.
The mere fact that at age 92, Doc could play like he did makes him without doubt the finest 90 year-old trumpeter of all time. Perhaps it can be said that no brass player over the age of 80 has ever played with his power, range, confidence and melodic creativity. Cheatham's career dates back to the Twenties when he was backing singers such as Bessie Smith. He moved to Chicago where he worked briefly with Ma Rainey Albert Wynn and subbed for Louis Armstrong. He soon had his own band and started to tour Europe. He then started a career with many big bands including Cab Calloway's group, Teddy Wison's band, and numerous others. Cheatham also enjoyed playing with Eddie Heywood's group, sometimes backing Billie Holliday and splitting time between Dixieland groups and more Latin-based projects. His half-spoken, half sung singing style was a perennial source of enjoyment which took nothing away from his superb playing. He will be missed.
Nicholas Payton with Clark Terry Iridum Room NYC

What a great pairing!! While Payton is quickly finding his own voice, while not being shy about wearing his influences on his sleeve, Terry delights in honing his already patented style. C.T., as he is affectionately known has always played music that is exuberant, swinging and fun. This week's run at Iridum was no different. While Terry became famous for his mumbles vocals, which started as satire of the less intelligible ancient blues singers and is also a fervent educator, he is still most widely associated with the great Ellington and Basie bands that he was a part of. Clearly enjoying sharing the bandstand with one of his idols, Payton was able to choose tunes from a variety of Terry's fabulous records. From Just Squeeze Me to Just One of Those Things the group, also featuring the fine pianist, Anthony Wonsey, was in top form and romped throughout. Payton, still enjoying new found fame mostly in light of his involvement with the Kansas City band and a few outstanding records on the Verve label sounded fantastic. He is answering his critics who claim that he would still be unheard of if not for Wynton Marsalis who has taken a keen interest in young Nick's maturing process. A great week.

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