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Nicholas Payton playing the trumpet in a band of studentsNicholas Payton

Nicholas Payton's music career began much as jazz itself did, marching in New Orleans street parades. His playing reflects that. But just as jazz has expanded beyond its New Orleans roots and dancing rhythms, this 2 l-year-old trumpeter has also expanded, embracing and mastering jazz styles as varied as those of Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis. 

"I'm not necessarily focused on one specific style of the music," Payton says. "I just want to be free so that at anytime I can play standards, my own original music or some more obscure tunes in the jazz repertoire. Right now I'm still developing. I'm just gathering all these ideas, all of these influences that I have had over the years and bringing them together."

Payton's love affair with the trumpet began when at age 4 he requested the instrument as a Christmas present. Between the influence and assistance of his mother, Maria (a classical pianist), and his father, Walter (a renown New Orleans bassist), Nicholas developed quickly. Even before he could read music, he had developed his ear to the point that at age 9 he was accompanying his father on gigs with the Young Tuxedo Brass Band.

"The first steady traditional band that I played with was a group called the All-Star Jazz Band," Payton recalls. "It was just a bunch of kids-I was about 12-but we played around New Orleans and even at some jazz festivals in Europe."

It was about that time that Wynton Marsalis first heard Payton play, via an unsolicited phone audition. The older musician had called to speak to Payton's father, but once Nicholas realized who was on the line, he began playing his trumpet. Impressed, Marsalis has taken a personal interest in Payton's development, sending him tapes to study and recommending him to such band leaders as Marcus Roberts and Elvin Jones.

"Nicholas is a great musician, who was very serious about learning and developing all aspects of jazz musicianship," Marsalis says. "He has tremendous talent and a work ethic that matches that talent. This is a rare combination which insures originality fundamental to jazz expression."

"I wanted the record to be a total presentation of where I am musically," the 21-year-old trumpeter says. "I'm not necessarily focused on one specific style of the music. I want to be free enough so that at anytime I can play standards, my own original music, or some more obscure music in the history."

While such Payton originals as "Beginning of the End" and "The Sleepwalker" are totally modern in their arresting harmonies and abstract melodies, this young trumpeter also tips his hat to such ageless masters as Harry "Sweets" Edison and Doc Cheatham in his rendition of 'Yaking a Chance on Love." The classic "You Stepped Out of a Dream" sounds like a new composition thanks to the unexpected dose of New Orleans street beat in its background. And "Young Payton Blues," makes clear that age aside, this man is very much at home playing the twelve-bar form which is the basis for all jazz.

Accompanying Payton are several of the best musicians on the scene today: Mulgrew Miller on piano, Reginald Veal on bass, Lewis Nash on drums, Mark Whitfield on guitar, and Monte Croft on vibraphone.

The unusual combination of these instruments accounts for much of what distinguishes the sound of "From This Moment." However, the main force responsible for the freshness and excitement this Verve release generates is Nicholas Payton, a trumpeter and bandleader about whom and from whom we can expect to hear much.