Nicholas Payton Subject of “Legends Series” at the Little Gem

It’s a tribute to New Orleans’ musicians that they continually honor their ancestors and take evolution of our musical traditions seriously. Music is nothing if it doesn’t change and flow into the future.

Davell Crawford's "Legends" series Friday, November 19 at the Little Gem.

Pianist and singer Davell Crawford came up with a concept that would include both an investigation of the creative process via an interview and and performance with his “Legends” series that takes place monthly at the Little Gem Saloon.

The first chapter in the series on October 11 featured Irma Thomas, to a packed house. The next in the series, this Friday, November 15, will feature trumpeter/keyboardist  Nicholas Payton, son of bassist Walter Payton, a serious jazz iconoclast, and a proponent of the phrase “Black American Music,”  an awareness of which he’s trying to spread online with #BAM—an all-inclusive musical umbrella for spirituals, gospel, blues, soul, and R&B.

When queried why he decided to include Payton—who just made 40—as one of his “legends” in the series, Crawford said “Nicholas clearly fills the bill as a legend. Age has nothing to do with that term; what makes a person a legend is the way they’ve used their art, their gifts, to change the world, to change their communities, and he’s definitely done that.

“Think about the young trumpet players after Wynton from New Orleans that have gained the kind of success that Nicholas has. With all due respect to my many friends, none since Wynton has achieved the international success at an early age that Nicholas has,” said Crawford.

“When Nick and I were coming up, for our generation, we were probably the hottest cats in town, touring the world, representing our city. So we want to celebrate and salute that, and salute his views and beliefs. He’s a very smart guy, and I want to let people know that,” Crawford added.

“People like Nicholas have traveled all over the world their entire lives and his perspective on music, on the arts as a whole, is a little bit

Nicholas Payton: a "Legend" speaks.

different from the average musician that hasn’t traveled as much, and more so, hasn’t had the experiences he’s had by playing with the greats: the Dizzy Gillespies, Max Roaches, more. He knew them intimately and has played with them. So obviously his perspective on what jazz is may be a little different than the average textbook would have taught us.

When asked about Payton’s opinionated blog regarding music, Crawford says “In some ways. Nicholas has been blackballed by some people because of what he believes, and maybe that’s one reason why I thought it was important to get his viewpoint out there. He’s very passionate, he’s the truth. He’s an artist, and a lot of people can’t handle it. And I know it feels.”

Crawford will play with Payton, Joe Dyson on drums and Vicente Archer on bass, and will also interview Payton on Friday night at the Little Gem, with shows at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.