Album review: "B*tches"
By Jess Righthand
Friday, Feb. 3, 2012
If you didn't already know Nicholas Payton as a widely acclaimed trumpet player, then his new album won't do much to convince you.
The album is, for all intents and purposes, a vocal album. Payton wrote all the songs himself, and he sings and plays all the "instruments" (some synthesized and some live).
The music itself is an interesting hybrid of jazz, R&B, funk and hip-hop (Payton stridently rejects the classification "jazz" in favor of the more all-encompassing "BAM," or black American music). The indirect reference to the Miles Davis album "B*tches Brew" draws a not-unwarrented parallel between the two artists' affinity for cross-genre experimentation. Bright spots on the album include a guest appearance by Esperanza Spalding on the hip, upbeat "Freesia" and the funky title track at the end, where trumpet finally plays a primary role.
These songs have been described as deeply personal and cast as the biography of a relationship. But too often the lyrics fall either into cliche ("You are the light of my life") or just plain awkwardness. Despite Payton's rich vocals, for instance, nobody wants to hear him croon about how "60 percent of marriages end in divorce."
Payton isn't a bad singer. But he's a spectacular trumpet player. And every time the trumpet surfaces, it disappears all too quickly.