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


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The Grammy-winning trumpeter, Nicholas Payton presented an exciting performance of Tin Pan Alley standards associated with Louis Armstrong, Thursday February 15, 2001 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The celebration is Payton’s tribute to one of the world's most important jazz masters and has been extended into the 21st Century by popular demand! This concert, part of a month-long celebration showcasing the vitality, quality and diversity of the Los Angeles cultural community in conjunction with the events surrounding the Grammy Awards, was a brilliant romp through ragtime, the blues, New Orleans jazz and Swing.
Nicholas Payton invited his audience to join him in his new art gallery of Armstrong classics, painting much of Louis Armstrong’s essence into his strokes of trumpet genius. Payton’s innovative arrangements, poignant and soulful sounds were brought to life by his 14-piece Big Band that featured the great Slide Hampton on trombone as his special guest.
Opening with “Potato Head Blues,” the young Payton announced his arrival with an array of trumpet blasts that signaled we were in for a great night. This arrangement featured great soloing by saxophonist/clarinetist Bill Easley and Anthony Wonsey on piano. Payton’s command of his horn registers brought an exciting response from the audience and served as a validation that he is indeed the rightful heir to Armstrong’s legacy.
Payton continued to blur the lines between himself and Armstrong with a dynamic performance of “Hello Dolly” which brought the crowd to its feet with its Latin percussion and uncluttered melody. Ray Vega's standout registers were tight as can be and supplied the perfect nuance for this special composition. His interpretations were brilliant throughout the evening.

The greatest moments of the night however were supplied by Payton’s renditions of “Tight Like This” and “West End Blues.” His elongated phrases and modal approach on Tight...” was so brilliant that the audience barely stayed seated. Payton’s intro and Slide Hampton’s solo on "West End Blues" were classic. The standing ovations are not unusual for Nicholas Payton, and tonight, he especially deserved them. Shouts of “encore” brought Payton back to the stage with “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You.” Backed by his New Orleans-styled brass band, with a funky R&B beat, this song was the crème de la crème and ended the evening on just the right notes!

Nicholas Payton has mastered the great repertoire of Armstrong’s best songs and tonight Armstrong was alive and well and in Nicholas Payton's great hands! Let it be “tight like that” for a long time to come!


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