By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — One of the finest soloists and bandleaders in the jazz world comes to Nashville this weekend as the featured attraction at Cheekwood’s “Jazz Under The Stars.” New Orleans native and Grammy winner Nicholas Payton, one of the finest players, bandleaders and composers of his generation, will be performing.

Payton’s impressive resume includes more than 20 recordings as a leader. His latest recording is titled “Maestro Rhythm King,” and it spotlights Payton’s multi-instrumental ability. Modeled after the groundbreaking Sly & The Family Stone LP “There’s A Riot Going On,” Payton’s release mixes live drums with a variety of keyboards (he’s equally accomplished on all these other instruments). The list includes Moog, Hammond B-3, Fender Rhodes, Prophet-6, OB-8, and the Korg Polysix, plus Fender P-Bass. 

Payton’s live set spotlights his ambidextrous ability to play both the trumpet and keyboard at the same time. There will be a special opening performance from the Nashville Youth Orchestra, with New Orleans-inspired cuisine also available. 

The son of bassist and sousaphonist Walter Payton, Nicolas Payton has been playing trumpet since childhood. He was playing alongside his father with the Young Turks band since he was nine, and a year later he turned professional, joining James Andrews’ All Star Band.

He later became a familiar name to Crescent City music fans, enrolling at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and later at the University of New Orleans.His recording career began at Verve Records in 1995. A year later he appeared on the soundtrack of the film “Kansas City,” and won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Solo on the album “Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton.”

He cut seven LPs for Verve, then signed with Warner Bros. in 2003. Besides the long list of LPs as a leader he’s collaborated on recordings and sessions with many other notable musicians, among them Trey Anastasio, Ray Brown, Ray Charles, Daniel Lanois, Dr. John, Stanley Jordan, Herbie Hancock, Roy Haynes, Zigaboo Modeliste, Marcus Roberts, Jill Scott, Clark Terry, Allen Toussaint, Nancy Wilson, Dr. Michael White, and Joe Henderson.

A founding member of the SF Jazz Collective, Nicholas Payton remains among this nation’s most dynamic, outspoken and imaginative artists.In 2008, he joined The Blue Note 7, a septet formed in honor of the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records. In 2011, he formed a 21-piece big band ensemble called the Television Studio Orchestra. In 2011, he also recorded and released Bitches, a love narrative on which he played every instrument, sang, and wrote all of the music. In 2012 the Czech National Symphony Orchestra commissioned and debuted his first full orchestral work, The Black American Symphony. And in 2013, he formed his own record label, BMF Records, and the same year released two albums, #BAM Live at Bohemian Caverns, where he plays both trumpet and Fender Rhodes, often at once, and Sketches of Spain, which he recorded with the Basel Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland.

Payton’s “On Why Jazz isn’t Cool Anymore”[3] describes the effects of cultural colonization on music. The article quickly earned his website 150,000 page views and sparked international press attention and debate. He continues to speak out on issues of race and culture, and continues his quest to gain more recognition and exposure for quality musical projects.

Nicholas Payton at “Jazz Under The Stars” along with The Nashville Youth Orchestra  Friday night at Cheekwood Estates & Gardens, 1200 Forrest Park Drive. Tickets are $55 for members, $65 for non-members. Doors open at 6 p.m., the concert starts at 7 p.m.