Nicholas Payton burst onto the scene in the early ’90s as the Next Big Thing in jazz trumpet, a man with a horn defined by luminescent tone, technical virtuosity and a demonstrable grounding in the jazz tradition. In recent years, he’s also effectively preached the gospel of what he calls “Black American Music,” or #BAM. And, at least since his post-Katrina midnight jams at Snug Harbor in his hometown of New Orleans, Payton has incorporated Fender Rhodes into many of his performances, often playing keys and trumpet simultaneously.
For the ambitious, two-disc Afro-Caribbean Mixtape, largely created by a band that debuted at last year’s Jazz Fest, Payton connects the dots globally, exploring (as he explains in his extensive liner notes) how the music he loves traveled from Africa to the Caribbean and finally to New Orleans and other American cities. It’s a sumptuous sonic potpourri, incorporating electric and acoustic jazz, funk, R&B, various sound effects, spoken word, DJ scratching and “found” audio. And there are several old-school touches along the way, including the sound of a tape being loaded onto a reel-to-reel at the start of the first disc and a needle dropping onto vinyl at the beginning of disc two.