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Have skills, will travel: Payton goes exploring

June 26, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Advance word on Nicholas Payton's new "Sonic Trance" album is that, like several of his contemporaries, the trumpeter has added pop elements to his clarion mainstream jazz style.

But Payton's performance at the Jazz Bakery on Tuesday, which he opened with a medley of material from the forthcoming CD, turned out to be considerably more adventurous.

Although there were numerous passages calling up memories of the jazz-funk fusion of the '70s and '80s, there was a greater preponderance of the sort of wide-open, freestyle improvising associated with the avant-garde '60s.

The members of Payton's sextet -- Tim Warfield (tenor saxophone), Kevin Hays (keyboards), Robert Hurst (bass), Adonis Rose (drums) and Daniel Sadownick (percussion) -- have been, with the exception of Hurst, working together on a regular basis. And their musical togetherness was vividly present in the smooth, spontaneous give-and-take of the improvised passages.

Those passages ranged so freely from individual soloing to ensemble sections that it was often difficult to tell where one began and the other ended.

Further enhancing the envelope-stretching qualities of the set, Payton used an electric amplification and sound-modifying setup to produce some wildly colorful, distinctly non-acoustic trumpet sounds. Hays, working with similarly kaleidoscopic keyboard sounds, added sweeping roars and whispers to the music's bold array of musical textures.

Whether the album will indeed offer a similarly adventurous musical trip remains to be seen.

But one thing's for sure: Payton, whose straight-ahead skills are beyond question, obviously has every intention of riding those skills into new territories with a probing curiosity reminiscent of the career of Miles Davis.


Nicholas Payton Sextet

Where: The Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., Culver City

When: Tonight-Saturday, 8 and 9:30 p.m.

Price: Tonight, $30; Friday-Saturday, $35

Info: (310) 271-9039

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