Nicholas Payton’s Latest LP Is A Strong Addition To 2021’s Field Of New Jazz Albums

Courtesy: Smoke Sessions Records

Musician/composer Nicholas Payton is keeping himself somewhat busy this year.  The famed trumpet player was featured on Verve Records’ recently released Louis Armstrong tribute record, A Gift To Pops, last month along with a number of other equally well-known jazz musicians and performers.  Along with that recording, Payton allegedly has a new EP coming, with its full information under consideration.  While audiences wait for the record’s release, Payton has another record, his new album, Smoke Sessions, for audiences to enjoy.  The hour-plus record (one hour, seven minutes to be exact) was released Oct. 29 through Smoke Sessions Records.  The record is a wonderful addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums, too. That is evidenced from the beginning to the end of the 10-song record.  The album’s opener, ‘Hangin’ In And Jivin’’ is just one of the ways in which this is shown.  It will be discussed shortly.  ‘Q Is For Quincy,’ which comes a little later in the record’s run, is another example of what makes the album so enjoyable.  It will be discussed a little later.  Much the same can be said of ‘Gold Dust Black Magic,’ too.  That song will also be examined later.  When it and the other songs noted here are considered along with the rest of the album’s works (originals and covers alike), the whole proves to be a successful new offering from Nicholas Payton that every jazz fan will agree deserves so much attention.

Nicholas Payton’s latest album, Smoke Sessions, is a great addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.  Its mix of modern and vintage jazz sounds and styles make that clear from song to song.  The record’s opener, ‘Hangin’ In And Jivin’’ is just one of the many songs that serves to support the noted statements.  According to information provided in the album’s expansive liner notes, this song is “one of three new songs Payton composed for Smoke Sessions.”  The notes add that the very title is a tribute to the timeless sitcom, Good Times.  The nearly eight-minute opus opens with a solid combo from the rhythm section of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Karriem Riggins.  Payton’s work on piano here actually sounds somewhat like DJ Jellyfish’s hit song, ‘Shake It Just A Little Bit.’  Whether that was intentional is unknown, but this critic caught the similarity.  There is no mention in the album’s liner notes so one is left to assume that the connection was unintentional.  Either way, that solid almost hip-hop type rhythmic mix throughout the song, against Payton’s lighter piano line makes the song even more interesting.  The whole of the group’s work makes the song conjure thoughts of an upscale jazz club, people eating finger sandwiches, taking in the sounds as they talk.  It is just such a wonderfully relaxing composition in whole and just one of the record’s most notable works.  Just as notable in this record is the later entry, ‘Q Is For Quincy.’ 

‘Q Is For Quincy’ originally appeared on Payton’s 2015 album, Letters according to the album’s liner notes.  The notes make a point to address the communication between Carter and Payton and how that played into the song’s ultimate outcome.  Carter is quoted as saying he appreciated Payton’s understanding and appreciation of how certain instruments interplay with one another in any composition.  That understanding is in full display here as is evidenced in the pairing of Payton’s work on the piano and Riggins’ equally light brushwork on the snare while he keeps time on the hi-hat.  Carter’s bass work meanwhile is so subtle but still cuts through just enough because of the balance in the other noted performances.  It really comes into play here and gives the whole a nice subtle accent so to speak on the foundation formed by Payton and Riggings.  The collective musicians’ work here is a wonderfully enjoyable modern jazz composition that has such an infectious swing that throws back to another age of jazz.  It all makes the song so enjoyable in its own right and yet another example of how much the album in whole has to offer audiences.  ‘Gold Dust Black Magic’ is yet another example of what audiences have to look forward to here.

The liner notes for ‘Gold Dust Black Magic’ make a point to address the various styles and sounds that combine throughout the song, which was composed in January.  That diversity is noted right from the song’s opening bars.  The use of the keyboard, with its unique sound and light, percussive approach, conjures thoughts of the keyboard-driven jazz compositions that famed composer Vince Guaraldi wrote for the 1960s and 70s Peanuts TV specials.  The swing from Payton’s performance on trumpet makes for an interesting contrast to the other noted sound and approach.  The varied time signatures also noted in the liner notes are just as clear, too.  The whole once again creates a work that is just as unique to the album as the other songs examined here and the rest of the album’s works.  When the whole of that content is considered together, the collected material makes Smoke Sessions a wonderful musical experience for any jazz aficionado.

Nicholas Payton’s recently released album, Smoke Sessions is a positive new offering from the veteran jazz musician/composer.  From beginning to end, it has plenty to offer audiences.  That is evidenced through the originals and covers.  Each of the songs examined here do well to support the noted statements, too.  When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Smoke Sessions a must hear for any jazz aficionado.

Smoke Sessions is available now.  More information on the album is available along with all of Nichols Payton’s latest news at:



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