Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Nicholas Payton "Plays Well With Others"

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Trumpet pairings in Jazz date back to the very beginnings of the music when King Oliver and Louis Armstrong shared a front line in New Orleans where the music originated and a few years later in Chicago where the music had migrated in the 1920’s via the steamboats that plied the Mississippi River.

Trumpet has always been the dominant or lead voice in Jazz both because the sound of the instrument can generally be heard above all the others and because of where the sonority of the instrument falls in terms of musical keys.

Because the instrument has the ability to overpower all of the other horns, it’s relatively rare in Jazz to have a combo fronted by two trumpets.

Big bands occasionally feature “duels” between the three or four trumpets that make up its “trumpet section,” but generally, only one trumpet in the section takes the trumpet solos.

And due to the huge and lasting footprint that Louis Armstrong left on the music, trumpet has always had a special place in the pantheon of Jazz instruments with each generation bringing forth its own clarion call bearers.

Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie steered the instrument into the modern era and were immortalized on a number of recordings produced by the impresario, Norman Granz.

Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard were the horn’s messengers during the hard bop era and beyond. Sadly, none of these modern trumpet giants recorded together but Freddie Hubbard did pair up with Woody Shaw, a later modern Jazz trumpet disciple, for an LP. [As you will note from the published comment below, Freddie and Lee DID record together on Blue Note's Night of the Cookers. Thanks to an attentive reader for this correction.]

Randy Brecker, Arturo Sandoval and the late, Woody Shaw gave power and presence to the playing of the trumpet during the last quarter of the 20th century. Randy and Arturo continue to amaze on the modern scene with Wynton Marsalis having taken the instrument to a whole new role of prominence with his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

On the West Coast, the brothers Candoli - Pete and Conte - deserve mention for their LP’s featuring two trumpets.

I was reminded of the two trumpet format during a recent listening of Nicholas Payton’s CD Payton's Place [Verve 557327-2] that features Payton with fellow trumpeters Wynton Marsalis and Roy Hargrove (t); Joshua Redman, Tim Warfield (ts); Anthony Wonsey (p); Reuben Rogers (b); Adonis Rose (d). 9/97,1/98.

Nicholas Payton has a ripe, full trumpet sound and is also a composer whose writing is steeped in traditional harmony with a hard, modern edge.

Payton is a traditionalist who, in addition to developing his own book of songs, has shown a deep interest in classic jazz [he made a wonderful tribute CD to “Pops” entitled Dear Louis].

His playing is underscored by a strong sense of swing, a bright, ringing tone and a  skilled storytelling voice. He makes no demands on himself that he can't comfortably fulfil, and his best solos occupy that middle register which so many younger players seem to think is either dull or sissy.

On Payton Place, Marsalis stops long enough for two tunes, Brownie A La Mode and the self-explanatory 'The Three Trumpeteers' (on which Hargrove also guests). Roy is the unexpected choice of partner on With A Song In My Heart and shows a side of his playing which rarely surfaces in his own work, bright, fleet and softly lyrical. Josh Redman comes in on A Touch Of Silver and continues to prompt questions as to how great he really is.

Payton's writing has come on in leaps and bounds, utilizing unfamiliar registers and altered harmonic patterns to give the album a hint of strangeness.

It’s nice to find another trumpet player who plays well with others.

1 comment:

  1. Freddie and Lee did record together............"Night of the Cookers" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFjz4fiNv18


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