April 22, 2008
Jazz, Post-Bop, Contemporary Jazz, Straight-Ahead Jazz

Album Review

On his first several albums beginning in the mid-'90s, trumpeter Nicholas Payton appeared intent on establishing the range of his New Orleans influences, whether Wynton Marsalis or Louis Armstrong, to whom Payton paid tribute on 2001's Dear Louis. Then, on 2003's Sonic Trance, Payton threw a curve by diving headfirst into the world of late-'60s/early-'70s Miles Davis, complete with funky wah-wahs and sprawling electric keyboards. Into the Blue is another turnabout, and a welcome one: on this set of mostly original compositions, a pensive, largely laid-back Payton truly comes into his own. The ten tunes, recorded in New Orleans, offer a variety of moods, from melancholy to jubilant, an elegance permeating all of the performances. "Chinatown," Payton's interpretation of Jerry Goldsmith's theme to the classic Roman Polanski film, projects a sullen, late-night vibe enhanced by Kevin Hays' spare, mysterious, tinkling piano, Vicente Archer's understated bass, and Marcus Gilmore's lazy brush work on the drums, while "Let it Ride" suggests '70s-era CTI smooth jazz. Payton revisits the funk for "Nida" (one of two songs penned by Walter Payton, Nicholas' bassist father) and injects Latin spices into the closing "The Charleston Hop." The slow-rolling "Blue" features a rich, emotive vocal debut from Payton and "Triptych," the album's nearly 12-minute highlight, takes its time building, giving Payton ample time to explore the nooks and crannies of the melody.
Jeff Tamarkin, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Drucilla
  2. Let It Ride
  3. Triptych
  4. Chinatown
  5. The Crimson Touch
  6. The Backward Step
  7. Nida
  8. Blue
  9. Fleur de Lis
  10. The Charleston Hop (The Blue Steps)