Payton in New York: Curvaceous Cacophony
Nicholas Payton Quartet, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at the Lincoln Center, New York, 25th February 2018
I arrived through the darkly lit streets of a New York winter—with its glancing lights and inner red-lit hotel in Bryant Park—to finally find rest in the subtle New York Japanese restaurant of my hotel, after a 24-hour sojourn through from Sydney via Tokyo. In my spirit, I felt I wanted to experience New York jazz live—a source of my compositional imagination.
As a composer, I felt that the sharp, understated polite articulation of New Yorkers lived in the live-jazz I heard at the Lincoln Centre on Sunday night. The Nicolas Payton Quartet crackled into the air in the fifth-floor curvaceous jazz venue of the Lincoln Centre. It seemed that the s-shaped walls, almost like a half-curved treble clef, were actually the music emanating from the band. Payton’s opening haunting colouristic chords, subtly stalked and layered the air in perfume-like moments of rich float-chords stacked to dissonant lingering moments of play. This unassuming but subtle play spread through the quartet: the caressed skin drums of Jacquelene Acevedo, whose subtle Japanese floating-world sounds and Hokusai-like designer clothes, answering Payton’s arioso-piano notes, as if the two were one without looking; drummer Joe Dyson, with his discreet lithe-physical presence, set up disciplined and concise rhythmic propulsion with subtle placed explosions of snare-rim shots in colour exchanges with the mute skin-drum moves of Acevedo. Overlapping complexity of
juxtaposed surge patterns at odds with colour points of hard and soft exchange provided incredible rhythmic propulsion to Payton’s carefully placed rhythmic agitation with colouristic chords cycling around a centre to harden as explosive dissonance. Under this, firm, secure tones from the tall-bassist Vicente Archer, worked from low to frenetic high and suddenly cavernous bass sounds of incredible depth to compliment this curving and breathing sounds of the band above him. Payton’s subtle single note colour placements, almost mirroring the subtle touches of red silk hanky colour concentration he wore, had journeyed from understatement to dyads to spaced full-chords at horrendous pace, but controlled, agitating around coloristic dissonance whilst the rest of the band nestled the sound with a frantic nesting of tangled rhythms surging together. Suddenly, the Latin-like sounds of Acevedo cut with intuitive metal precision of high-cymbal splurge against Payton in exact sync, with Archer and Dyson’s rhythm section providing the spectral underpinning of the resonance to leave us all breathless.
I nearly didn’t go to the Lincoln to hear this curvaceous cacophony tonight; but a still small voice inside encouraged me to attend the impossible booking arrangement. I ended-up 4-feet from the rhythm section with French pinot noir, realising—that underlying life is an intuitive pulse of spirit which is greater than reason.