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Nicholas Payton: Relaxin' with Nick

Mike Jurkovic By

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This percolating trio date of brothers from different riff mothers—bassist Peter Washington, drummer Kenny Washington and Nicholas Payton—is a bit misleading. In this setting Payton is a quartet unto himself, sailing with his trumpet while playing elegant piano/Fender Rhodes, electronics, and the occasional rap/vocal that we needn't discuss pro or con. Given all that, Relaxin' with Nick throws new color on the casual trio setting, and what else would you expect from a fleet, forward thinker like Payton?

As he's also proven with his game defining recordings such as 2017's Afro-Caribbean Mixtape (Paytone Records), Dear Louis ( Verve/Universal, 2001) and Gumbo Nouveau (Verve/Polygram, 1995), Payton can invoke jazz's then and now on command and not sound moored or owing to either. Both Washington's are on their A-Game, and they have to be, as Payton upshifts from the bluesy smooth title track to the funky, over-driven Fender modulations and swirling tempo shifts of Benny Golson's soulful "Stablemates" (which just might encapsulate all jazz has to offer on this feisty date at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club in uptown NYC), to "Eight," his too cool tune from 2014's Numbers (Paytone Records)

Found originally on Payton's otherworldly Afro-Caribbean Mixtape (CD Baby, 2017), a sample of Cuban trumpet master Manuel "Guajiro" Mirabal, propels the rolling cha-cha. "Jazz Is a Four Letter Word" not only features another vocal sample, this time from Max Roach, but highlights Payton's piano prowess, owing to a vintage lineage spanning Ahmad Jamal's clean, lean pacing and the skillful delicacy of Wynton Kelly (Oh, and he plays hot trumpet on this one too.)

Recorded on May 30, 31 and June 1st of 2019, Relaxin' with Nick captures all the chill of not only the three jazz masters on Smoke's small stage, but the hushed yet buoyant anticipation of everyone in the room, wondering where they'll go from the stylish hop of "1983," to reveling in "I Hear A Rhapsody," to the generous, bopping, all-hands-on-deck gyrations of "Five." And let's give one last shout out to Kenny and Peter Washington, two superiors in their own right, who give themselves over entirely to Payton's truly intriguing trip.

Track Listing: Disc 1: Relaxin' with Nick; C; El Guajiro; Stablemates; Eight; Jazz is a Four-Letter Word; Otello; Tea For Two. Disc 2: 1983; F (for Alex Foley); A; I Hear A Rhapsody; Five; When I Fall in Love; Praalude.

Personnel: Nicholas Payton: trumpet, piano, electronics, vocals; Kenny Washington: drums; Peter Washington: bass.

Title: Relaxin' with Nick | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Smoke Sessions Records

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