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Nicholas Payton: Musical Middle Ground

Nicholas Payton
Nicholas Payton

Five years ago, soon after the release of Sonic Trance (Warner Bros.), trumpeter Nicholas Payton vowed never to record the same way again. He drew a line in the proverbial sand, marking a break from his critically acclaimed string of acoustic postbop discs for Verve as he embarked on riskier, decidedly more electric- and groove-funk-focused material.

It was a move than surely irked many fans, who viewed Payton as one of the last of his generation, steadfastly carrying the jazz tradition torch rather than attempting to incorporate modern touches of hip-hop, electronica, rock and pop. “When we put the record out, it was one of those things where either people loved it or they hated it,” he recalls. “A lot of people who were fans of my earlier work didn’t like it. But I also gained a new audience. So I learned a lot, not only musically, but also about being strong in the face of criticism. I’d never been criticized to that degree.”

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