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Nicholas Payton


Nicholas Payton

Nicholas Payton
Payton playing at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 5 May 2007
Background information
Born (1973-09-26) 26 September 1973
New Orleans, Louisiana United States
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Trumpet, electric piano
Years active 1990–present
Labels Verve, Warner Bros., Blue Note/EMI, Nonesuch
Associated acts Young Tuxedo Brass Band, The Blue Note 7
Website Official website

Nicholas Payton (born September 26, 1973) is an American trumpet player and multi-instrumentalist. A Grammy Award winner, he is from New Orleans, Louisiana.[1][2] He is also a prolific and provocative writer who comments on a multitude of subjects, including music, race, politics, and life in America.


  • Biography 1
  • Discography 2
    • As sideman 2.1
  • References 3
  • External links 4


The son of bassist and sousaphonist Walter Payton, he took up the trumpet at the age of four and by age nine was sitting in with the Young Tuxedo Brass Band alongside his father. He began his professional career at ten years old as a member of James Andrews' All-Star Brass and was given his first steady gig by guitarist Danny Barker at The Famous Door on Bourbon Street. He later enrolled first at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and then at the University of New Orleans.

After touring with Marcus Roberts and Elvin Jones in the early '90s, Payton signed a recording contract with Verve; his first album, From This Moment, appeared in 1994. In 1996 he performed on the soundtrack of the movie Kansas City, and in 1997 received a Grammy Award (Best Instrumental Solo) for his playing on the album Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton.[6]

After seven albums on Verve, Payton signed with Warner Bros. Records, releasing Sonic Trance, his first album on the new label, in 2003. Besides his recordings under his own name, other significant collaborations include Trey Anastasio, Ray Brown, Ray Charles, Daniel Lanois, Dr. John, Stanley Jordan, Herbie Hancock, Roy Haynes, Zigaboo Modeliste, Marcus Roberts, Jill Scott, Clark Terry, Allen Toussaint, Nancy Wilson, Dr. Michael White and Joe Henderson.

The new millennium marked further progression in Payton's career, defined by an expanding devotion to wide array of projects. In 2004, he became a founding member of the SF Jazz Collective. In 2008, Payton joined the Blue Note 7, a septet formed in honor of the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records. In 2011, he formed a 21-piece big band ensemble called the Television Studio Orchestra. In 2011, Payton also recorded and released Bitches, a love narrative on which he played every instrument, sang, and wrote all of the music. In 2012 the Czech National Symphony Orchestra commissioned and debuted his first full orchestral work, The Black American Symphony. And in 2013, Payton formed his own record label, BMF Records, and the same year released two albums, #BAM Live at Bohemian Caverns, where he plays both trumpet and Fender Rhodes, often at once, and Sketches of Spain, which he recorded with the Basel Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland.

From 2011 to 2013, Nicholas was a Distinguished Artist and Visiting Lecturer at Tulane University and belongs to a growing group of race scholars and activists committed to social justice. Members of this movement suggest that racism is not simply a response to color, but that it additionally describes subtle legal behaviors by which the dominant culture continues to marginalize people in order to sustain a poor, minority class. In the case of American society, evidence of this can be framed as institutionalized racism and white privilege, a topic that Payton has sometimes written about in several essays to his website.

Payton's writings are provocative for other reasons, too. One of his most notable pieces to date, On Why Jazz isn't Cool Anymore,[3] describes the effects of cultural colonization on music. The article quickly earned his website 150,000 page views and sparked international press attention and debate.[4]


  • 1994 - From This Moment (Verve)
  • 1995 - Gumbo Nouveau (Verve)
  • 1997 - Fingerpainting: The Music Of Herbie Hancock (Verve) with Christian McBride and Mark Whitfield
  • 1997 - Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton (Verve)
  • 1998 - Payton's Place (PolyGram)
  • 1999 - Nick@Night (Verve)
  • 2001 - Dear Louis (Verve)
  • 2003 - Sonic Trance (Warner Bros.)
  • 2008 - Into The Blue (Nonesuch)
  • 2011 - Bitches (In+Out) [1]
  • 2013 - #BAM: Live at Bohemian Caverns (BMF Records)
  • 2013 - Sketches of Spain" (BMF Records)

As sideman

With Elvin Jones
With Allen Toussaint


  1. ^ a b Skelly, Richard. Nicholas Payton at AllMusic. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
  2. ^ "Nicholas Payton". 
  3. ^ "On Why Jazz isn't Cool Anymore….". December 1, 2011. Archived from the original on December 1, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Someone Said Something Negative About Jazz As A Whole Again". December 3, 2011. Archived from the original on December 3, 2011. 

External links

  • Nicholas Payton Official site
  • [1]
  • Biography from
  • Interview with Nicholas Payton for
  • "In Conversation with Nicholas Payton" by Ted Panken, (
  • Nicholas Payton: Live At The Village Vanguard - slideshow by NPR
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