Newmark Theatre

2024 Biamp Portland Jazz Festival: Nicholas Payton

w/ Cyrus Nabipoor

As a leading voice in American popular music, the Grammy Award-winning Nicholas Payton is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, producer, arranger, essayist, and social activist who defies musical and artistic categories. All the while, he honors the tradition of what he terms “postmodern New Orleans music,” as well as the spirit of Black American Music, of which he states, “There are no fields, per se. There are lineages.”

The New Orleans-born Payton has followed his calling since growing up under the tutelage of his parents—acclaimed bassist Walter Payton and Maria Payton, a pianist and vocalist. Already a prodigy before entering the first grade, he began playing trumpet at age four and started performing professionally at age 10. Before the age of 20, he was already in demand by everyone from Danny Barker and Clark Terry to Elvin Jones and Marcus Roberts. Payton released his first album, From this Moment, in 1995 on the famed Verve label. He received his first Grammy nomination in 1997 for the album Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton, and for the category of Best Instrumental Solo, which found him winning the award that year.

Payton has released over 20 recordings as a leader, pushing musical boundaries and showcasing a variety of contemporary and traditional styles, while displaying his ambidextrous ability to play both the trumpet and keyboard at the same time when he’s inspired to do so. He has collaborated with numerous mentors and contemporaries alike, ranging from Common and Cassandra Wilson to Trey Anastasio, MonoNeon, and Jill Scott, to Dr. John, Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste of The Meters, Allen Toussaint, and Abbey Lincoln to name a few. His most recent albums are Smoke Sessions and The Couch Sessions, released respectively in 2021 and 2022.

“Everything I write is about life experiences. The music means nothing without life. A life lived. It’s not just notes on a page. It’s not just a technical exercise. It’s vibrations and energy,” Payton says. “And I’m striving to help lift, if possible, raise the vibration of the collective conscious one audience, one album, one song at a time. If I can’t do that, there’s no point in me playing. That’s why I play. It’s about contributing to society and inspiring. That’s my life as an artist, period. Challenging people to think differently, to think critically and to not be slaves to the system and the status quo.”

View all 2024 Biamp Portland Jazz Festival events at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and the Newmark & Winningstad Theatres.

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