NICHOLAS PAYTON "Into the Blue" Nonesuch

Nicholas Payton is at ease on
Nicholas Payton is at ease on "Into the Blue." (By Michael Wilson)
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Friday, May 2, 2008

NICHOLAS PAYTON"Into the Blue"Nonesuch

IF MOVING TO a new and highly regarded label raises the stakes for Grammy-winning trumpeter Nicholas Payton, he's certainly not letting on.

"Into the Blue," his Nonesuch debut, boasts relaxed, self-assured performances. A quintet session recorded in New Orleans, it's a summing-up of sorts, an album that recalls some of Payton's previous acoustic and fusion-inspired work yet manages to sound fresh and inspired -- even surprising. It opens with "Drucilla," a multifaceted piece that initially conjures film noir and hints at an unexpected album highlight to come: the trumpeter's wonderfully evocative interpretation of Jerry Goldsmith's film theme for "Chinatown."

Warm, spacious and burnished, Payton's balladry is hard to beat. Also welcome are the vibrant reminders of his Crescent City roots, especially the funk-charged romp "Nida," written by the trumpeter's father, bassist Walter Payton, and forcefully powered by drummer Marcus Gilmore. (No surprise there: Gilmore is legendary drummer Roy Haynes's grandson.)

Mostly, the arrangements prominently feature Payton and keyboardist Kevin Hays, complementing the romantic moods with the smoldering Latin-tinged groove "Triptych" and the album's fiery, post-bop coda, "The Charleston Hop (The Blue Steps)."

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Thursday and May 9 at Blues Alley (202-337-4141, Shows start at 8 and 10.

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