Critic's Pick: Nicholas Payton

Meet the man who believes the word "jazz" is "racist at its inception."

By David R. Adler
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 3 | Posted Feb. 8, 2012

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Nicholas Payton, a trumpet ace since his teens, has embraced a new role as a Twitter agitator, the self-proclaimed “Creator of #BAM aka the Savior of Archaic Pop.” OK ... what? Well, BAM stands for Black American Music, the term Payton insists should replace jazz, or “the j-word,” which he holds to be “racist at its inception.” Cue the online flame wars, which have yet to subside. It’s too simple, however, to tag this native New Orleanian as a racial exclusivist; his own career as a leader and sideman doesn’t bear it out. His polemics are over the top, no doubt, but they’ve touched a nerve with people eager to think beyond confining categories. Case in point: Payton’s new R&B epic, Bitches, on which he plays every instrument and sings. This week at Chris’ [Black American Music] Cafe, he’ll double on trumpet and Rhodes, sometimes simultaneously, with a trio he calls XXX. 

Sat., Feb. 11, 8pm and 10pm. $25-$30. Chris’ Jazz Café, 1421 Sansom St. 215.568.3131.

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1. Anonymous said... on Feb 11, 2012 at 02:17PM

“re: "His polemics are over the top, no doubt, but they’ve touched a nerve with people eager to think beyond confining categories"

Nonsense. His campaign is the very essence of "confining categories" - jazz is neither exclusively "black" nor exclusively "American" and to insist on rebranding it that way itself is a racist and rather elitist way of thinking. He has managed to generate a lot of attention for himself, though, and maybe that was the whole point of his online "agitation."”

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2. Richard B. said... on Feb 11, 2012 at 04:50PM

“@Anonymous, what specifically about Payton's term do you find so confining? If you've read your history books or have spoken to any of the jazz legends still living, it's clear that jazz is the result of the experience endured by Africans who were brought to America against their will, and this includes their effort to persevere. "Jass" was a racial epitaph used to describe a style of music originating from African American communities in the southern United States in the early 1920's. Derived from negro spirituals and work songs, jazz has transcended the volatile and undignified idea of enslaving black people for personal gain. I know, a connection to this legacy maybe particularly uncomfortable to accept, particularly to anyone with conscience, but it's our history. Accept it! After reading many of his posts,I can attest that Nicholas Payton has neither said jazz was exclusively black nor exclusively American.He speaks only of its African American roots, which is an irrefutable fact.”

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3. BluHulk said... on Feb 11, 2012 at 04:53PM

“To Anonymous,

Have you ever actually READ what Mr. Payton's thoughts are about this whole BAM topic?? He has NEVER said that jazz is EXCLUSIVELY "black" or "American" speaks more to the origins of the music branded as "jazz". Do yourself a favor and read what he's said. It'll save you from sounding misinformed. Straight from the horse's mouth:


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