September 09, 2003

Album Review

Changing labels from Verve to Warner Bros. and dropping any connection to his neo-bop past, trumpeter Nicholas Payton has crafted a funk-jazz album that unabashedly resurrects iconic trumpeter Miles Davis' wah-wah-laden fusion experiments epitomized by his 1969 opus, Bitches Brew. More slavish to the period than trumpeter Wallace Roney's No Room for Argument, but no less hip-hop-influenced than trumpeter Roy Hargrove's Hard Groove, Sonic Trance is nonetheless far from your average major-label jazz release. Featuring saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Vicente Archer, drummer Adonis Rose, and percussionist Daniel Sadownick, the group gains much au courant hip-hop aestheticism from the addition of drummer/producer extraordinaire Karriem Riggins. Besides performing with such heavy hitters as bassist Ray Brown and pianist Mulgrew Miller, the Detroit native has cut out a crossover niche for himself programming and producing in the hip-hop and electronica world, working most notably with rapper Common. He brings beats and soundscapes to Sonic Trance that elevate it to something that does feel somewhat new. Between Hays' ambient and expansive use of period keyboards, Riggins' deft electronic additions, and Payton's heavily effected horn, the overall sound can often become deliciously messy with organic sounds mixing into the synthetic. Musically, Payton sounds more energized than he has in years digging into the wah-wah with some nasty low-tone smears and multi-tone runs while celebrating Afro-beat legend Fela Kuti on "Fela 1." Similarly, he and Warfield take trad jazz to new heights interpolating the melody to "Cannabis Leaf Rag" like Thelonious Monk splitting an aperitif with Jelly Roll Morton at Studio 54. Of course, nothing Payton has done in the past can prepare you for his humorous and boisterous dancehall-style jibber-jabber rap on "Shabba Unranked." This isn't the totally innovative sound fans of forward-looking jazz may be waiting for, but just as the disciples of Wynton Marsalis re-explored/reinvented bebop, Payton and friends have turned their ears "out"-ward and could be on the path to a truly "new thing."
Matt Collar, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Praalude (Sonic Trance)
  2. Fela 1
  3. Velvet Handcuffs
  4. Cannabis Leaf Rag 1
  5. Séance
  6. Tantric (Lewd Interlewd)
  7. Shabba Unranked
  8. Séance (Romantic Reprise)
  9. Fela 2
  10. Tantric
  11. Blu Hays
  12. Stinkie Twinkie [Remix]
  13. Spiral
  14. Peeping Tim
  15. Cannabis Leaf Rag 2
  16. Two Mexicans on the Wall: Too Much Tequila/Sleeves Too Long, Pants Too
  17. Exorcism
  18. Toys in Babeland
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