As a leading voice in American popular music, the Grammy Award-winning Nicholas Payton is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, producer, arranger, essayist, & social activist who defies musical/artistic categories. All the while, he honors the tradition of what he terms “postmodern New Orleans music,” as well as the spirit of Black American Music, of which he states, “There are no fields, per se. There are lineages.” Already a prodigy before entering the 1st grade, he began playing trumpet at age 4 and started performing professionally at age 10. Before the age of 20, he was already in demand by everyone from Danny Barker & Clark Terry to Elvin Jones & Marcus Roberts. Mr. Payton released his first album, “From this Moment”, in 1995 on the famed Verve label. He received his first Grammy nomination in 1997 for the album “Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton”, and for the category of Best Instrumental Solo, which found him winning the award that year. Mr. Payton has released over 20 recordings as a leader, pushing musical boundaries & showcasing a variety of contemporary & traditional styles, while displaying his ambidextrous ability to play both the trumpet and keyboard at the same time when he’s inspired to do so. He has collaborated with numerous mentors & contemporaries alike, ranging from Common & Cassandra Wilson to Trey Anastasio, MonoNeon, & Jill Scott, to Dr. John, Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste of The Meters, Allen Toussaint, & Abbey Lincoln to name a few. His most recent albums are “Quarantined with Nick” and “Maestro Rhythm King”, both released in 2020.
I had the chance to catch the Nicholas Payton Trio virtually through the University of Wisconsin Union Theater. The music was energizing my living room. I could feel the real life oozing out of the instruments. There is no way that what I was witnessing (once aGain), wasn’t helping to lift, even, raise the vibration of the collective conscious of one audience. It’s that moment brought to us, virtually or otherwise, we walk in the same shoes and we repair the souls errr soles together.
The first portion of this week’s proGram knew how to strain the good stuff in:
The Delicate Balance of All Things (Rapid Reiteration Mix)- Beauty in Chaos Ft. Cinthya Hussey/Wayne Hussey
~~ The Kids- Palm Ghosts
Social Debris- Alice Cooper
Jericho- Jane Lee Hooker
Moonlight Reflection- Triptides
~~ Crash, Boom Bang- Sara Petite
Dirty Rotten Guy- Joyann Parker
It Ain’t Bad- Ghalia Volt
Hateful Blues- Ally Venable
Down In Lenox Town- Misty Blues
~ Put A Little Love In Your Heart- Hurricane Ruth
I Grew up (Kate’s Place)- Allan Harris Ft. Grégoire Maret
Girly Face- Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio
How Much A Dollar Cost- R+R=NOW (live)
Okaidja Afroso is an Afropop singer-songwriter & multi-instrumentalist from Ghana, West Africa. His unique artistic vision has led him to combine his native rhythms with unforeseen pairings of musical flavors. His sound is a spicy fusion of Ghanaian music with diverse cross-cultural influences. Although most of Okaidja’s hypnotic arrangements are sung in his native language, the meaning shines through. His calling and life purpose is to bring us all together so that we can laugh and grieve and dance and forge forward together, in community. His uncle was the town’s notorious composer who spared no one with the songs he wrote about life in their small fishing village. Okaidja’s mother was a colorful lead singer in her spiritual church. Her powerful songs of praise earned her the name “the spiritual singer.” As a young boy Okaidja sang while he worked on fishing boats. The fishermen would sing a cappella songs as they worked, and Okaidja passed the long days learning the songs of the great sea. Born into a family of musicians and storytellers in the village of Kokrobite on the west coast of Ghana, at the age of 19, he was accepted as a professional dancer for the prestigious Ghana Dance Ensemble at the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies. He became well known for his energetic stage presence and excelled in his performances of the Ga fetish dances. The Ghana Dance Ensemble gave Okaidja the opportunity to study with the best teachers in the country. As he toured internationally, Okaidja expanded his artistic reach becoming a master multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and arranger.
I had the chance to checkout the virtual event put on by the Wisconsin Union Theater featuring the beautiful works of Mr. Okaidja Afroso. The stories around the musical tales where as informative as they were an easy way to slide into another person’s culture (and shoes). The different instruments used present the page turning of the book for the evening, with not only a new image and sound, but feeling. While it sure is strange not to be able to soak in those feelings in person, the virtual experience offered is still a great way to support the scene, the artist and the arts. If you get a chance to see Okaidja Afroso virtually or soon enough in a live setting, go get your spirits lifted, your minds enriched and your hearts filled.
The final portion of this week’s proGram could have taken us straight into he night time:
I’m on It- The Allergies Ft. Dr Syntax & Skunkadelic
Never Wanted You More (Dr. Rubberfunk Remix)- Smoove & Turrell
Theme from Selva- Quantic
~~~ Zion- Polyrhythmics
Omega- Black Market Brass
I’ll Take You There- Riddem Doctors
Goin’ Somewhere- Riddem Doctors
~~~ Holding On- Selina Albright
Get The Lowdown- Tony Koch and the Alt News Band
~~~ (interlude) Merica Mirror- Public Enemy
If You Can’t Join Em Beat Em- Public Enemy
Closing: I Am Black- Public Enemy
I. George Enescu | Romanian Rhapsody No. 1
II. John Corigliano | Chaconne from The Red Violin
III.Gustav Holst | The Planets
*Featured Artists Naha Greenholtz, Violin Madison Symphony Women’s Chorus, Beverly Taylor, Chorus Director
The first half of the show was simply energizing and enlightening with both power and precision highlighted. The Planets took it to the next level with the HD video presentation that made the sounds guide a tour that was unmatched in this setting. If you were ever enthralled by the vastness and wildness of the colors and sounds of space and it’s mighty giants, this show would certainly add another level to your imagination and desire to explore.
The niGht was cold but inside the Overture Center for the Performing Arts the heat was just getting turned on. Sitting in the center of the orchestra section was the best place for my ears to be when our friend, Raul Midón took the stage. As he got everything situated, the moment of true readiness was known with the first breath taken into the mic and the first note played on his guitar. The fluidity and sincerity of his voice certainly hit home with the Madison crowd, as they gave him the handclapped approval every artists likes to hear. His guitar work left many speechless as he plucked ans picked and slapped his way throuGh many tunes you can find on his live album, as well as a few off the upcoming album that he and I discussed on the proGram a week earlier entitled “Don’t Hesitate” which left the people ready to reach into their pockets and walk home with it. They’ll have to wait at least into early spring to be able to take it home. Then they can take all that positive storytelling upliftedness home with them in more than a memory form. Raul was on before our other friend, Habib Koité. Habib and the band brouGht a fire with them that comes from the motherland, the homeland. He gave us great tales in music form as well as between the songs, telling the audience of how the homeland sufferings makes the music even more meaningful to the world, and how sharing it with us was/is a true joy. Then he and the band proceeded to give us plenty of new tracks off the brand new release Soô, all done with large smiles upon their faces, which easily translated into smiles on our faces. It was hard to contain the bodies from wanting to get up and move, so we didn’t. When the liGhts went up and Habib saw all of us, you could feel how honored he was to have us all (and it was an ALL) there with him sharing in these moments. This show was filled with these positive moments, both in the audience and on the staGe, it would be well worth your time to catch one or either of these friends of the proGram as they make their way around the world doing the things they do.
I always enjoy getting a chance to sit in a box at the symphony. Tonight it was the opposite side as usual, so a different perspective was gained. Which is always a good thing. The night was wonderful with Guest Trumpet player,Tine Thing Helseth. While each piece did hit me in ways mentionable, it was the Adams piece Doctor Atomic Symphony that just blew my mind….Smashing….Stunning piece.
Here’s the proGram for the evening: Madison Symphony Orchestra
John DeMain– Music Director/Conductor Tine Thing Helseth– Trumpet
~ Jean Sibelius Finlandia, Op.26, No.7
~ Joseph Hayden Concerto for Trumpet & Orchestra in E-flat Major
Ft. Ms. Helseth
~ John Adams Doctor Atomic Symphony
~ Alexander Arutiunian Trumpet Concerto in A-flat Major
Ft. Ms. Helseth
~ Richard Strauss Suite from Der Rosenkavalier
After having “Wax Tailor” on the proGram to talk about the latest release, and what one could expect from the show on February 6th at the High Noon Saloon, one would think we would have been prepped for the event, you know, be ready for it. But as quick as the stage was on for Wax Tailor, we were brought into a story, a plot-line…an individual experience within a shared doing…..we we all going. We were featured in this film. The set was an experience pieced together by the visual minds eye escape as well as the surveyor of the crowd, the watchers of their surroundings got more than bargained for as well. The infamous WT soundbytes were the laces on the grooved up beat shoes, it held the story tiGht. It all made no…yet sense all at the same time. The music made it happen. The tunes got lush with funky lounged down and up grooves surrounded by a hip hop facilitation by Mattic on the Mic. He said it, he felt it and he meant it. When Charlotte Savary was on the stage, we were lured into a state of the otherworld, a hypnotic voyage where the words were ridden over the music, over the crowd….toGether but solo. When the show came to a close, it was one of those were you gather yourself back, and I swear I saw my name rolling down within the credits.
The Stoughton Opera House was a perfect spot to not just catch this show, but to be a part of it. Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three put on one hell of a rockabilly-jazz-jam with a side of Midwestern Blueswing that had the crowd hooked even before the first note was played. Pokey and the boys obviously had a great time playing and being in Milwaukee the night before so they guys were on a roll. These guys have a rolling commentary reminiscent the good ole days, with call backs from within the group to audience participation and all of this made the show get under your seat and light a fire. Even if you tried you miGht not be able to have a bad time. The sounds were ever more the hiGhlight. It is always a thrill to get samplings of the new material, and the boys brought some of those tunes to the front, while getting the point across with tunes like “Drinkin’ Whiskey Tonight”. This type of scene is more than a show, it is an event. One to look forward to as you mark it on your calendar’s the next chance you get. Certainly an event that was unique to that night, with no thought of doing the same ole thing on stage, we were laughing, stomping and clapping along. With the new album set to drop in the early spring, it was nice to hear those new tracks done, and done good. When Pokey and I chatted on air, he recalled how making the old sound new is really up to the listener, and I must say, the diversity sitting in the crowd proved one thing, dated or new, old or young….it sounded right on this night or any other.
First off, I want to thank JD’s people for taking such good care of me with an invite to check out the show at the High Noon Saloon. The last time JD McPherson and the boys were in town was for the Orton Park Festival in last Summer and he and I had a chance to chat about what people could expect. And the people came out and they got what they wanted. The same can be said this time around at the High Noon when a big ole crowd got more of the same good times. JD (obviously nursing a sore throat or cold) and the boys took the roof and flipped it into a dancefloor with the rhythm-arock-a-billy stylin’s that can be listened to with ease. Jimmy Sutton on stand up bass too his whapp-a-bass stroke to higher levels and with a constant smile. The band was as tight as ever and oh so fun lovin’, if ever there were crowd pleasers, they can be found hanging out with these guys keepin’ the rocks-a-rollin’ and the feets-a-stompin’. JD featured many tracks off the wonderful 2012 release “Signs and Signifiers”, while the Jimmy led Bo Diddly moment brouGht back good memories of a friend. You can check out JD and the boys if they come to a town near you, but also on December 4th, they” be on Letterman. If they do come to a spot nearbye, maybe dress the part and follow your ears on down. Open the show was Joel Paterson and the Modern Sounds, who were a perfect match for this event.
This is the 34rd season of chamber concerts, broadcast on Sunday afternoons and hosted by Lori Skelton of WPR.. Listen live, or join us in Gallery Three in the Conrad A. Elvehjem Building at the Chazen Museum of Art, Sundays from 12:30 – 2pm.
This Sunday featured a performance of the Sch’s, as brouGht to us by Eliza’s Toyes. They sanG lesser known sacred and secular music by early Baroque German composers Heinrich Schütz, Johann Schein, and Samuel Scheidt.
Scheit: Miserere Mei Deus
Schein: Ach Herr, ach meine schone
Scheidt: Schrist ist erstanden
Schein: Nun danket alle Gott
Scheidt: Lobet ihr Himmel den Herren
Schutz: Alma afflitta, che fai?
Schein: Amor wie ist dein Lieblichkeit
Schein: Frischauf, ir Klosterbruder mein
Schein: Suite #4
Schutz: O Primavera, O dolcezza amarissime d’amore, Vasto Mar and So Fahr ich hin zu Jesu Christ
Last niGht I took myself out to the Frequency to catch some solo Thollem McDonas. After airing some tunes from Tsigoti and his Thollem/Parker/Cline – The Gowanus Sessions album on the proGram, I was thrilled to find out from him he’d be in these parts. In meeting Thollem I confirmed that cool is. He makes music that speaks to me and tonight (he actually let the opening act be the headliner as it was Grimm’s first time doing what he was doing in a live setting on his home court) the language was clear to my eyes and ears. It was like reading the book as it was being written. Notes running to and through and holding each other close by in a race to the end, a Black Friday frenzy in fact, ended his set, and visually I could see all the people that had been waiting in line for deals, leave the starting blocks as the doors finally opened. And the reasons they were there stayed only known to themselves. It is just there that I met and shook hands with Thollem and his music. There is a welcoming and comfortable moment with person and sound and I look forward to the next encounter. If you get the chance to have this encounter before I do aGain, I say make sure you put on your open minds and be prepared to write that new story.
Since I decided to make radio a part of my world, an active part, there have been certain artists that I feel a connection to because of their stories within the music. The Wood Brothers are just as important to me as the early on nursery rhymes and Richard Scary books. Chris’ band MMW produces sounds that are engrained within my mindsapce as a staple in my musical diet, and Oliver’s former band King Johnson is like a reunion of favorite uncles gathered toGether doing things that they tell you: “Don’t tell your parents”. After interviewing Chris and talking about how they have left such a mark, it was easy to hear in his voice that he was pleased that I get where they are coming from. And that I convey that to the listeners in story form and track selection. And get it we did on this night when they came to Madison and did their thing at the Majestic Theater. They graced us with new renditions of some old treats, some teases of new tunes but mostly it was a continuation of familiar tales, told in a voice that has an extra something, a lunging forward rocking chair step that kept making me feel like I was on the front porch and the dinner bell was ringing. I can hear the screen door closing now….BAM. Satisfied but not too full is how I left this show. Sound like a musical meal you’d like to try. I’d hope so.
Alan Akaka, one of the world’s great Hawaiian lap steel guitarists and director of the Ke Kula Mele Hawai’i Music School in Kailua, Hawaii visited us in Madison. Mr. Akaka discussed Hawaiian music through the history of music and played examples, and Mr. Akaka performed traditional and new Hawaiian favorites. It was interesting to listen to Mr. Akaka talk of his former teacher, mentor and friend (one with tough musical love), Jerry Byrd. Jerry Byrd is someone whom I have enjoyed listening to for years, and his music never got old to me as it allowed me to travel by just opening my ears and closing my eyes. I was also thrilled to find the association between him and Debashish Bhattacharya, an Indian classical musician who plays the lap slide guitar. These kinds of musical friendships and fusions always capture my attention and while I wanted to hear more of his live playing and less talking about it, the event did have me searching through my musical collections looking for more of these fusions. Mr. Akaka is the past president of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association an organization with members throughout the world that strives to perpetuate the Hawaiian steel guitar… I saw forward on to the Islands, even if it is with eyes closed and ears wide.
We got to see our good pal Todd Clouser with a trio take on A Love Electric. This event featured new tunes from a forthcoming album (early 2013?), which showcases Todd’s singing with his already mind opening instrumental work. When watching Todd play, every note from the very beGinning is filled with face twitching emotion, and now the addition of his voice adds an even more raw feel to the music. I was excited to have this opening the gifts on your birthday feel to the new music, when Todd mentioned the new portion of the show to me on air the week before, it was a schwinGG moment and it lived up to it for me live. The dimension is new. In any shape A Love Electric takes, there is always reason to go support the act as they travel through and to your town.
Cane – Jason Moran
i. Togo to Natchitoches
ii. Coin Conin’s narrative
iii. Gens libre de coleur
iv. Natchitoches to New York
Suite: Portraits of Josephine Baker – Valerie Coleman
i. St. Louis 1920
ii. Les Milandes
iii. Paris 1925
iv. Thank you Josephine
Tzigane – Valerie Coleman
The Rite of Spring – Igor Stravinsky (Arr. Jonathon Russell)
Klezmar Dances – Trad arr. Gene Kavadlo
When Mister Jeff Scott and I spoke on the proGram a week prior to the show, I couldn’t believe him when he spoke of how the Stravinsky “The Rite of Spring” would rock like there was a complete orchestra, a rock N roll orchestra was in the room….Man, how he was riGht. Imani Winds played the parts build for their instruments but also made their instruments take on the beings of another sound producer, chameleons in the room. With each member introducing a portion of the proGram, the audience not only gets to know them through their agile playing, but with word from their voice, they’re way of describing what the moment was to bring, ever so slightly unique to our night with the band….I found this to be a very welcoming experience and very respectful to the piece of music about to be played. I was taken back and brought forward with Valerie’s piece “Portraits of Josephine Baker”, this moving story was captivating and challenging, and the way it made my mind dance was part of the reason I diGG the way Imani Winds hears, writes and makes songs. And just when we thought the evening was over, they came out for a second way to the crowd, and while standing, put on a great rendition of a great song….Coltrane’s “Afro Blue” took over the room and was the right way for me to walk, strut perhaps out of the room.
misterG/ Mister Jeff Scott of Imani Winds @ Mills Hall
I was fortunate enough the other day to chat with the cool rock and roller Nina Diaz of Girl in a Coma. We pitched their set at the 2012 Madison Fruit Fest and it was a rockin’ 50 minute blast of rock trio goodness. The setting was the blacktop parking lot on the East side of Madison and let me tell you this, the East side was represented it all shapes, sizes and that is what makes it special. The crowd was already wild in its ways already but having Girl in a Coma hit the stage changed it from Burlesque to something completely different in just two chords and a bass bump and the roll of Phanie’s drums. I can’t say enough about this band in it live home of the stage, except they were lively and raucous at times with a soft edge in the middle as needed. Mostly giving us tastes of their originals (including one of the absolute best renditions possible of “CONTROL”.) There was even a little time made to dance with a Velvet Underground blast as well. There were all types of audience members checking the girls out and I noticed many of them (even a less than a yEAR old) enjoying the sincerity of the music, and the reflection of the lyrics….but most of all…just like the Girls in a Coma crew….we just wanted to rock! These are the girls I want to smoke ciGarettes with out back during high school, but their music is something that I look forward to carrying on with me into the yEARS ahead.
The story is amazing and the selections tonight were as well. The world premier of John Harbison’s String Quartet #5 was absolutely fitting and the ten movement composition with an arch like structure was ear dynamic. Check out more here. The evening program:
String Quartet in C major, Franz Joseph Hayden Op. 54, No. 2 Hob.III:57 (1788) (1732-1809)
III Menuetto: Allegretto
IV Finale: Adagio-Presto-Adagio
String Quartet #5 (2011) John Harbison
(A Pro Arte Quartet Centennial (b. 1938)
Commission, 1st Performance)
I Melodia 1
II Scherzino 1
III Notturno 1
IV Visi (Faces)
V Notturno 2
VI Cuori (Hearts)
VII Notturno 3
VII Scherzino 2
IX Melodia 2
X Ripensamento (all movements played without pause) ~Intermission~
String Quartet in D Major, M.9 (1889) Cesar Franck
I Poco lento – Allegro – Tempo I (1822-1890)
II Scherzo: Vivace
IV Finale: Allegro molto