Tons of music in and around New Orleans this week
26th March 2014 · 0 Comments
By Geraldine Wyckoff
Nicholas Payton Blowin’ at the Prime Example
It’s always news worthy when Nicholas Payton plays locally particularly when it’s in an intimate setting. The Grammy-winning trumpeter and now pianist, who does both with the aid of a trumpet stand, performs at the Prime Example, 1909 North Broad Street, on Thursday, March 27, 2014, and will be joined by New Orleans’ A-team rhythm section, drummer Herlin Riley and bassist Roland Guerin.
“We’ll do a lot of different things,” Payton says of the repertoire, “and go in a lot of different directions. The energy in the room is what I typically play off of. To me, the atmosphere always changes — even in the same room — depending on who shows up.
Payton, an internationally renowned artist, digs playing at the small club for the sheer pleasure of it. “It’s got a very soulful vibe,” Payton offers. “I was a big fan of the (Jazz) Showcase lounge in its heyday that was across the street. It reminds me of that. Julius (Kimbrough) is the proprietor (as he was at the Showcase) and he has that energy, he’s a big fan of the music and he’s a great cat. I like it because it’s kind of off the beaten path and – not that I have anything against tourists – I think more locals go there as opposed to the other venues that are typically tourist-laden. A lot more neighborhood folks come out.”
Presently, Payton has been working on recording projects with an outlook to releasing a new album on his BMF label that he formed last year. “I’m shooting for two projects a year, that’s what I’m after,” he says. “I have my own label, so I’m not on a label schedule now. I like that kind of latitude.”
Payton wasn’t aware of the history behind the club’s newly acquired baby, baby grand Sohmer piano that was made, it’s been estimated, in the 1940s or ’50s and was once owned by the late, great pianist and vocalist Eddie Bo. “Oh, I might tinkle on it,” said Payton on hearing its story, “but I’ll be playing Rhodes primarily.”
It’s interesting to note that Payton, unlike most New Orleans musicians who have reached his status and acclaim in the jazz world, has never lived away from his hometown. “I never left,” he declares. “I’ve lived here all my life. This has always been my home. I never moved to New York and I never did that whole thing.” Payton, who spent a lot of time on the road and gigging in the Big Apple, does add that he would have made the move to work with drum legend Art Blakey. At one point, the possibility of that was in the works soon before Blakey died in 1990. “After he passed, living in New York never really appealed to me.”
Payton will take the stage again in New Orleans at the Jazz Fest with what should prove to be a very interesting group with drummer Russell Batiste, guitarist Derwin “Big D” Perkins (of Jon Cleary’s Absolute Monster Gentlemen fame) and bassist Braylon Lacy, who’s known for his work with Erykah Badu. Will catch up with that as the date draws near.
PJ Morton – Given’ It Back
PJ Morton is first and foremost a musician. He touches the piano with love and respect. He sings his songs from the heart. The son of the noted Reverend Paul S. Morton of the Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church, PJ, born Paul Morton Jr., performs a unique benefit concert for the New Orleans African American Museum of Art, Culture and History on Thursday, March 27, 2014. The event will take place at 7 pm at the Basin Street Station, a wonderfully restored railroad terminal located at 501 Basin Street. The Grammy-winning artist, who plays keys with the group Maroon 5, won the award for his songwriting and production for India Arie’s album Interested. He released his first album as a solo artist, 2013’s New Orleans and collaborated with his idol, Stevie Wonder, on a single “Only One.” Morton, who impressed at last year’s Essence Festival, will also make his debuts at the French Quarter Festival and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Fine stuff.
Tickets are $75 and can be purchased through eventbrite.com/e/renaissance-in-treme.
Dirty Dozen Back Home
For a band full of hometown guys, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band plays in New Orleans less often than one might anticipate or, for that matter, desire. The reason is simple. The Dozen, which headlines this Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at the Young Leadership Council’s Wednesday at the Square’s free concert in the business district’s Lafayette Square, remains on the road close to 200 days of the year. The innovative band, which was formed way back in 1977 and transformed the brass band scene with its amalgamation of funk and modern jazz, only gigs here maybe eight to 10 times a year.
“It’s like Dorothy clicking her heels,” trumpeter Gregory Davis once said, referencing the classic book and movie “The Wizard of Oz.” “There’s no place like home. Nobody dances or participates (to a performance) like people in New Orleans do and we play off the energy of the crowd. It gives the band a boost.”
The Louisiana Spice swinging big band opens the concert at 5 pm. Next up on the 12-week schedule is the great vocalist and pianist Marcia Ball who appears on April 2, 2014.
For the full line-up go to www.wednesdayatthesquare.com.
This article originally published in the March 2, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.