It's a promising sign to see that the revivalist movement once fronted by Wynton Marsalis has now given way to a manifold and healthier jazz outlook. A bi-product of the shifting mores, trumpeter Nicholas Payton could be considered one of a new breed of renaissance men, ready to carry the music to the next level. Like Marsalis, he hails from New Orleans. Unlike his predecessor, however, he seems to be more interested in moving jazz beyond the repertory or "museum piece" syndrome, notwithstanding his propensity to dip into the Miles bag on occasion.
Nick @ Night again shows Payton's sense of humor with a catchy title that provides an excellent sequel to the previous Payton's Place (Verve, 1997). The fiery "Captain Crunch (Meets the Cereal Killer)" also pushes the envelope with its tongue-in-cheek moniker. But if we elbow the comparison further, this latest affair is much more focused compositionally, although things stay a bit too middle of the road at times. One has to also question the use of harpsichord and celeste on a few tracks. The novelty of such does nothing to really detract from the proceedings, but then there doesn't seem to be a clear need for it either.
The meat and potatoes of the proceedings are clearly found in two of Payton's dedications- "Faith" which is for Faith Evans and "Little Angel" which was composed for Payton's young son. Both are ballad-type pieces, abounding with great harmony lines and melodic soloing delivered with sensitivity and verve. If like so many say, ballad playing provides the litmus test for genuine jazz talent, then Payton's got it covered (Warfield's breathy ballad work is also in a class by itself). The title track and the Ramsey Lewis/Earth, Wind & Fire opus "Sun Goddess" both summon the soul and funk influence that players of Payton's generation are so skillfully making a part of the jazz oeuvre these days.
The benefits of keeping a band together have been proven by a plethora of musicians over the years from Duke Ellington to Sun Ra. Payton and his crew continue the practice and the musical chemistry these guys possess is distinguishable to even the novice. Saxophonist Tim Warfield provides the "cool blue" to Payton's "spicy gumbo," while the precision conveyed by pianist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Rueben Rogers, and drummer Adonis Rose is uncanny. Hey, and if you dig Payton and the guys here, don't miss Adonis Rose's own two dates with this band on the Criss Cross label.
Track Listing: Beyond the Stars; Captain Crunch (Meets the Cereal Killer); Faith; Pleasant Dreams; Interlude # 1 (Turn Up the Funk); Nick @ Night; Somnia; Interlude # 2 (Turn Out the Burn Out); Prince of the Night; Blacker Black's Revenge; Little Angel; Exquisite Tenderness; Sun Goddess.
Personnel: Nicholas Payton: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tim Warfield: tenor and soprano saxophones; Anthony Wonsey: piano, harpsichord, celeste; Reuben Rogers: bass; Adonis Rose:drums.