Nicholas Payton: Fleur de Lis

26 Sep

Birthday greetings to trumpeter Nicholas Payton, who celebrates No. 38 today.

Payton is one of the many musicians from New Orleans; you can follow Payton’s musical lineage back as if it were a family tree. His father Walter, who died last fall, was an accomplished bassist and educator; Nicholas was taught by Ellis Marsalis; Nicholas toured with pianist Marcus Roberts, who played with Wynton Marsalis, who is currently the best-known in the long line of New Orleans trumpet players to which Payton belongs.

(It’s only a coincidence that the coach of New Orleans’ Super Bowl-winning Saints is Sean Payton. Or is it?)

“In New Orleans music, trumpet is king,” Payton told Ashley Kahn on “(There’s) something about the sound of the trumpet — its expressiveness, its sort of regal quality.”

The trumpet is not Payton’s only means of expression. He also plays piano, and he blogs on his website about topics ranging from race to music and in between. His blogs on race are provocative — we don’t concur with all of his conclusions — but they frequently stimulate revealing exchanges in the comments sections. If you get involved, you’ll be challenged.

Said Payton in Tony Green’s liner notes to the 1998 album Payton’s Place: “A lot of people have a very limited view of me, of what they see me doing. I don’t want to go against my reputation, as far as what I have established, but I don’t want to be categorized as a traditionalist. I’m still very conscious of my roots, but at the same time, I want to use my foundation as a starting point that will allow me to expand and express myself.”

Listen to the cut below from Payton’s 2008 album Touch of Blue to hear him do just that.



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