From the moment trumpeter Nicholas Payton was christened one of the young “lions” of jazz, the term has come to be taken quite seriously. Payton is as fierce in his beliefs as he is on stage with his horn, and the New Orleans native comes to Chris’ Jazz Café on Saturday taking the stage with Damion Reid (drums) and Vincente Archer (bass) at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
The trio will present material from his latest album, a collection with the provocative title of “Bitches.”
“I’m always trying expand and grow,” Payton said in a recent interview. `“[The title] was actually suggested by a close friend of mine who happens to be a female. It just stuck. It was actually going to be called something else, and she said, ‘You should call it ‘Bitches.’ I was like, ‘You know what? That’s it!’ and I just went with that. I love the juxtaposition of a record being titled that, that’s actually an ode and a love story to women. It’s not a derogatory record at all, so I just love the fact that, all this love and whatever and then, you know … bitches! ”
The Grammy Award-winning musician, who has performed and recorded with noteworthy artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts, Christian McBride, Joshua Redman and Roy Hargrove, promises an eclectic and entertaining evening during his Philadelphia engagement.
“We’ll do some stuff from ‘Bitches,’ but we’ll also do some standards,” he said. “We’ll also do some free improv and make some stuff up in Philly we’ve never played before. I always like to make it open and get a feel for the room, to see what feels right tonight.”
Whatever Payton plays that night, rest assured that it will not be “jazz.” The versatile artist objects to the term, referring to it as “The ‘J’ Word.” He prefers the acronym “BAM” — Black American Music.
“[The term “jazz”] is of ambiguous origin, and many of the earliest connotations had heavy racial overtones to them,” Payton said. Even beyond the music, Payton is a man with strong opinions, which are often expressed in his blog. One entry in particular caused a vitriolic backlash, with Payton stating in part: “Since Black or Brown peoples are not in a position of superiority to assert their authority over a White person by means of economics, education, politics, health care or any other significant issue, they cannot be racist. In short: Black and Brown peoples don’t control s---, so they can’t be racist.”
Payton concluded his post by saying, “Only place a Black person can assert racism over a white is at the basketball court, on the bandstand or in the bedroom. LOL!”
When asked about the overall response to his statements, Payton said, “A lot of people have called ME a racist for saying that. My whole thing is, ‘Look. I can be a whole lot of things, but as a Black man, I cannot be a racist. In order for me to be a racist, I would have to be able to use my position and power as a Black man over someone on the basis of race — because they’re not Black. I might be able to do that on a small scale — I could not hire a white person, which I’ve never done. I hire musicians based on their talent, not skin color. But that’s just my band or whatever. I’m not in a position, nor is any Black person in this world in a position to stop … well, maybe Oprah … but to stop somebody’s career from developing, or blacklisting them. Look at that term — ‘blacklisting.’ So that’s where it is.
“We don’t, ultimately, as Black people have enough power and influence over politics, education, health care, the economy, as evidenced by the disrespect our current president must endure. He’s the most disrespected president ever. Why? Because he’s a Black man! That’s it! That’s just the truth!”
Whether or not his point or view coincides with your own, Payton’s candor and honest approach permeates his life and his music. “I’m a human being, in case anyone doesn’t know that, and I’m an artist,” he said in conclusion. “I don’t even consider myself a musician. I’m a human being and I’m an artist who uses music as one way to express my art.”
For more information call (215) 568-3131 or visit www.nicholaspayton.com. Tickets are available at www.seatengine.com. Chris’ Jazz Café is located at 1421 Sansom St.