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Nicholas Payton: Black Keys

How the polarizing trumpeter, bandleader and blogger found his way to the piano bench

Nicholas Payton
Nicholas Payton (l.) with bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Bill Stewart, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, NYC, Oct. 2014
Nicholas Payton multitasks on trumpet and keyboards, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, NYC, Oct. 2014
Nicholas Payton in 1998 (with Jon Faddis looking on)

In his controversial 2011 blog post “On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore,” trumpeter Nicholas Payton asserted, among other things, that he’s “not the same dude” he was a decade and a half ago. “Isn’t that the point?” he asked. “Our whole purpose on this planet is to evolve.”

That pronouncement hasn’t attracted as much attention as some of his other sentiments: “Jazz is an oppressive colonialist slave term,” for example, or its follow-up, “I play Black American Music,” which yielded the hashtag #BAM. But it resonates deeply, both in light of Payton’s evolution as a cultural critic and his changing focus from the trumpet toward the piano bench, where he’s settled in as a leader in recent years.

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