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In concert

As usual, the critics got it all wrong with Nicholas Payton (pictured right). Many have suggested that the round young trumpeter is the second coming of Louis Armstrong, but he looks a lot more like Charles Barkley to me. In all seriousness, the sweet-faced New Orleans native does call to mind the great Satchmo in both his appearance and the bourbon-soaked tone of his horn. But the jury's still out on his ability to score from the low post. Payton had an ideal musical upbringing. The son of a jazz bassist and an opera singer-classical pianist, he cut his teeth playing in New Orleans street marching bands. At 12, he caught the ear of Wynton Marsalis, who happened to be on the other end of the phone line from Payton's father. Marsalis would later recommend Nicholas for spots in the bands of Marcus Roberts and Elvin Jones. Payton's new record, Nick@Night, is his fourth for the Verve label, not counting his excellent collaboration with the late Doc Cheatham and his work on the soundtrack to Robert Altman's Kansas City. No matter the setting, his playing consistently shows great clarity, warmth and a taste well beyond his 27 years. Local jazz fans may remember Payton from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra's tribute to Jelly Roll Morton at UNC in the mid-'90s. Or from the scorching set he played with Christian McBride's band at the Carolina Theatre in 1996. This time around, the touring group should include another holdover from the McBride band, exciting saxophonist Tim Warfield. Nicholas Payton plays the Carolina Theatre this Wednesday, March 8, as part of The Newport Jazz Millennium Celebration. Also featured are Randy Brecker, Cedar Walton and others. --Gavin O'Hara

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