Nicholas Payton's Headshot

Nicholas Payton

Renowned jazz trumpeter - Panelist Blurb

What more inspiring muse is there for an artist than the night? Dark, mysterious, fickle yet inviting, the night is quite the tempting mistress. Cacophonous and vibrant, quiet and still, she lures you with her haunting sounds, yet keeps you at a certain distance. You could spend a thousand evenings in her presence, yet never fully know her. Trumpeter Nicholas Payton has a thing for the night. The Grammy-winner has turned his round, storytelling tone and expanding compositional imagination to illustrate a series of portraits of her on his fourth album, Nick@Night.

Comparisons between Nicholas Payton and the jazz icon Louis Armstrong are natural. Trumpet legend Doc Cheatham told Down Beat, "He (Payton) is the greatest of the New Orleans-style trumpet players that I've ever heard. And every time I hear him, he sounds better and better. I haven't heard anybody like him since Louis Armstrong."

Born in New Orleans in 1973, Payton's love affair with the trumpet began at age four when he requested the instrument as a Christmas present. Between the influence and assistance of his mother, Maria (a classical pianist), and his father (a renowned New Orleans bassist), Nicholas developed quickly. Even before he could read music, he had developed an ear to the point that, at age eight, he was accompanying his father on gigs with the Young Tuxedo Brass Band. The first steady traditional band he played with was a group called the All-Star Jazz Band, all 12-year-olds. They played around New Orleans and even at jazz festivals in Europe.

By the time Payton was in high school, he was working steadily, playing street parades and other engagements around the city. After graduating from New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, he went on to study with Ellis Marsalis at the University of New Orleans. Since 1990, he has been touring and recording, mastering that combination of classical trumpet virtuosity and the jazz vocabulary of blues-based growls and slurs which so defines his approach to this music. He has played regularly with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and George Wein's Newport Jazz Festival All-Stars.

NOTE: Bio is as it appeared in the Forum program from November 29, 2001.