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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

Dear Louis
VERVE 549 419-2


  1. Potato Head Blues
  2. Hello Dolly
  3. I'll Be Glad When You're Dead
  4. Tight Like This
  5. Interlude (St. James Infirmary)
  6. On the Sunny Side of the Street
  7. Dear Louis
  8. Blues In the Night
  9. The Peanut Vendor
  10. Mack the Knife
  11. Tiger Rag
  12. I'll Never Be the Same
  13. West End Blues

Nicholas Payton - Trumpet, Flugel, Vocal, Fender Rhodes
Paul Stephens - Trumpet, Flugel
Ray Vega - Trumpet, Flugel
Vincent Gardner - Trombone
Bob Stewart - Tuba
Bill Easley - Clarinet, Alto, Flute
Scott Robinson - Bas Clarinet, Baritone & Contra-Bass Saxophone, Flute
Tim Warfield - Tenor, Soprano, Flute
Peter Bernstein - Guitar
Melvin Rhyne - Organ
Anthony Wonsey - Piano
Walter Payton - Bass
Reuben Rogers - Bass
Adonis Rose - Drums
Dr. John and Dianne Reeves - Guest Vocalists

Nicholas Payton is just 28 and already he is a mature jazz artist, an excellent Trumpet and Flugel player and a very talented arranger and record producer. Nicholas hails from New Orleans and his Father, who plays on this record, is a well-known bass player. Nicholas started his musical career playing in Street Parade Bands, just as Louis Armstrong the subject of this tribute had done many years earlier.

Don't think that this is just another attempt to recreate Armstrong's music, this record is a long way from that, the arrangements all of which Nicholas wrote all have original dimensions to them in the tradition of 'old bottles new wine'. I found listening to this album a great joy, there are some excellent soloists, I was really taken with the excellent Clarinet playing of Bill Easley, Bob Stewart handles the difficult Tuba parts very well and there is some nice trombone from Vincent Gardner. There is no doubt who the star of the show is however, Nicholas Payton studied with Clark Terry and Wynton Marsalis and doesn't it show, both his Trumpet and Flugel playing are in the superstar bracket.

The outstanding feature of this album is that Nicholas Payton knows that all the really great jazz musicians were also entertainers, something that is sadly lacking in the offerings of many of his contemporaries. It could be the difference between acceptance and minority interest for this wonderful music form we call jazz.

Don Mather

As the title will tell you, this album was recorded as homage to Louis Armstrong. Like any trumpeter from New Orleans, Payton recognises his huge debt to Armstrong, both directly and also through more immediate mentors like Clark Terry and 'Doc' Cheatham. But this album also sounds like Payton's (or maybe Verve's?) attempt to produce a showcase of his own talent as an all-round entertainer. On two tracks, he makes his debut as a vocalist, and there are also guest vocal appearances from Dr. John and Dianne Reeves.

Most tracks feature a twelve-piece band playing Payton's excellent original arrangements. With three trumpets, trombone, tuba, three reeds, guitar, piano, organ, bass, drums and percussion available, the band can pack a tremendous punch. And with fine soloists throughout the band, there is plenty to admire, not least Payton's own trumpet work. On "Potato Head Blues", "Tiger Rag" and "West End Blues" in particular, he is true to Satch's legacy.

Although the material here is all associated with Armstrong, it is difficult to understand how some of the treatments are intended to pay homage to Satchmo. For instance, "Hello Dolly" is taken at a moderate pace without vocals but with screaming trumpet crescendos and congas. It becomes almost unrecognisable in the process. "I'll Never Be the Same" is a real oddity. Featuring Payton's vocals plus guitar, bass and triangle, it has a bossa nova beat and would be more at home on a Getz/Gilberto tribute than an Armstrong homage!

The end result is in an album that contains tracks to admire but which fails to hang together.

John Eyles

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