Nicholas Payton

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Nicholas Payton
Payton playing at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, May 5, 2007
Payton playing at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, May 5, 2007
Background information
Born (1973-09-26) September 26, 1973 (age 49)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
GenresJazz, jazz fusion
Instrument(s)Trumpet, electric piano
Years active1990–present
LabelsVerve, Warner Bros., Blue Note/EMI, Nonesuch
WebsiteOfficial website

Nicholas Payton (born September 26, 1973) is an American trumpet player and multi-instrumentalist. A Grammy Award winner, he is from New Orleans, Louisiana.[1][2] He is also a prolific and provocative writer who comments on a multitude of subjects, including music, race, politics, and life in America.


The son of bassist and sousaphonist Walter Payton, he began playing the trumpet at the age of four and by age nine was sitting in with the Young Tuxedo Brass Band alongside his father. He began his professional career at ten years old as a member of James Andrews' All-Star Brass and was given his first steady gig by guitarist Danny Barker at The Famous Door on Bourbon Street. He enrolled at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and then at the University of New Orleans.

After touring with Marcus Roberts and Elvin Jones in the early 1990s, Payton signed a contract with Verve Records; his first album, From This Moment, appeared in 1995. In 1996 he performed on the soundtrack of the movie Kansas City, and in 1997 received a Grammy Award (Best Instrumental Solo) for his playing on the album Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton.

After seven albums on Verve, Payton signed with Warner Bros. Records, releasing Sonic Trance, his first album on the new label, in 2003. Besides his recordings under his own name, other significant collaborations include Trey Anastasio, Ray Brown, Ray Charles, Daniel Lanois, Dr. John, Stanley Jordan, Herbie Hancock, Roy Haynes, Zigaboo Modeliste, Marcus Roberts, Jill Scott, Clark Terry, Allen Toussaint, Nancy Wilson, Dr. Michael White, and Joe Henderson.

In 2004, he became a founding member of the SFJAZZ Collective. In 2008, he joined The Blue Note 7, a septet formed in honor of the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records. In 2011, he formed a 21-piece big band ensemble called the Television Studio Orchestra. In 2011, he also recorded and released Bitches, a love narrative on which he played every instrument, sang, and wrote all of the music. In 2012 the Czech National Symphony Orchestra commissioned and debuted his first full orchestral work, The Black American Symphony. And in 2013, he formed his own record label, BMF Records, and the same year released two albums, #BAM Live at Bohemian Caverns, where he plays both trumpet and Fender Rhodes, often at once, and Sketches of Spain, which he recorded with the Basel Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland.

Payton's writings are provocative. One of his pieces, "On Why Jazz isn't Cool Anymore"[3] describes the effects of cultural colonization on music. The article quickly earned his website 150,000 page views and sparked international press attention and debate.[4]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

  • From This Moment (Verve, 1995) – recorded in 1994
  • Gumbo Nouveau (Verve, 1996)
  • Fingerpainting: The Music of Herbie Hancock with Christian McBride, Mark Whitfield (Verve, 1997) – music of Herbie Hancock
  • Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton with Doc Cheatham (Verve, 1997) – Grammy won track included[5]
  • Payton's Place (Verve, 1998)
  • Nick@Night (Verve, 1999)
  • Dear Louis (Verve, 2001) – recorded in 2000
  • Sonic Trance (Warner Bros., 2003)
  • Mysterious Shorter with Bob Belden, Sam Yahel, John Hart, Billy Drummond (Chesky, 2006)
  • Into the Blue (Nonesuch, 2008) – recorded in 2007
  • Bitches (In+Out, 2011)[1]
  • Live at 2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Munck Mix, 2012) – live at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
  • #BAM: Live at Bohemian Caverns (BMF, >2013) – live at "Bohemian Caverns"
  • Sketches of Spain with Sinfonieorchester Basel (BMF, 2013)
  • Numbers (Paytone, 2014)
  • Letters (Paytone, 2015)[2CD]
  • The Egyptian Second Line (Paytone, 2016)
  • Afro-Caribbean Mixtape (Paytone, 2017)[2CD] – recorded in 2016
  • Relaxin' with Nick (Smoke Sessions, 2019)[2CD] – live at "Smoke"
  • Quarantined with Nick (Paytone, 2020)
  • Maestro Rhythm King (Paytone, 2020)[limited edition LP]
  • Smoke Sessions (Smoke Sessions, 2021)
  • New Standards, Vol. 1 with Terri Lyne Carrington, Kris Davis, Linda May Han Oh, Matthew Stevens (Candid, 2022)

As group[edit]

New Orleans Collective
With Wessell Anderson, Christopher Thomas, Peter Martin and Brian Blade

SFJAZZ Collective (2004-06)

  • SFJazz Collective (Nonesuch, 2005) – recorded in 2004
  • SFJazz Collective 2 (Nonesuch, 2006) – recorded in 2005

The Blue Note 7 (2008-09)

As sideman/guest[edit]

With Eric Alexander

With Joanne Brackeen

With Bill Charlap

  • Plays George Gershwin: The American Soul (Blue Note, 2005)

With Common

With The Headhunters

With Joe Henderson

  • Big Band (Verve, 1997) – recorded in 1992-96

With Doc Houlind

  • New Orleans Sessions (Music Mecca, 1995)

With Dr. John

  • N'Awlinz: Dis Dat or d'Udda (Blue Note, 2004)

With Elvin Jones

With Yu Sakai [ja]

  • Touch the World (Newborder Recordings. 2020) – in track "Hōzuki (鬼灯) Physalis alkekengi"

With Jimmy Smith

With Allen Toussaint

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Result Award Category Work
1997 Won Grammy Award Best Jazz Instrumental Solo[5] "Stardust"
in Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton
1997 Nominated Grammy Award Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Individual or Group[5] Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton
with Doc Cheatham
2001 Nominated Grammy Award Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album[5] Dear Louis
2003 Nominated Grammy Award Best Contemporary Jazz Album[5] Sonic Trance
2023 Pending Grammy Award Best Jazz Instrumental Album New Standards Vol. 1
with Terri Lyne Carrington, Kris Davis, Linda May Han Oh, and Matthew Stevens


  1. ^ a b Skelly, Richard. Nicholas Payton at AllMusic. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
  2. ^ "Nicholas Payton". Archived from the original on March 5, 2005.
  3. ^ "On Why Jazz isn't Cool Anymore…". December 1, 2011. Archived from the original on December 1, 2011.
  4. ^ "Someone Said Something Negative About Jazz As A Whole Again". NPR. December 3, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Nicholas Payton". Recording Academy.

External links[edit]