Nicholas Payton
Smoke Session Records
5 stars
Reviewed by Chris Wethereall

Nicholas Payton is a young man in a hurry. The multi-instrumentalist made his first record as leader when he was just 22 and now at the age of 48, he can reflect on a catalogue of 20 records as boss, and another twelve as a sideman with heavy hitters like Jimmy Smith and Joe Henderson. He may be even better known as a controversial commentator. His 2011 article On why Jazz isn’t Cool Anymore is still making waves. It also led to his refusal to use the J word, replacing it with Black American Music and setting up his own record label with the same name, BAM. He speaks to a ‘colonisation’ of Jazz by white America. All perfect stuff for the woke-fest of these strange times.

Peyton has just released another excellent record from April this year with a new line up including two senior legends of this music, George Coleman on tenor and bassist Ron Carter, who have both been laying down music for six decades. Nick plays his usual repertoire of trumpet, piano, and Fender Rhodes, and with Karriem Riggins on drums, rounds out a perfectly balanced and hugely competent quartet. The leader also handles most of the composing duties. A sparkling and good-humoured session with four brothers clearly enjoying music-making together. And Nick has released the fruits of this gig on the Smoke Sessions label, not BAM. Perhaps he’s lightening up?