An Adversarial Katrinaversary and the Delusional Post-Diluvial New Orleans — a Manmade Disaster


It took a while, but I’m finally convinced. New Orleans will never be what it was. This 10-year Katrinaversary has forever sealed this city’s fate as a shell of an existence. It is destined to be a post-diluvial distortion of the values it once espoused. The Crescent City has successfully become a cable TV version of itself. By the way, what is Treme? We never called it that when I grew up there. To us, it was the 6th Ward.

We Rock, We Roll, That 6th Ward Got Control

I’m also tired of hearing how resilient New Orleans is. No, it is not. That just furthers this lie that somehow the traditions and the values of what made this city great are not on the verge of extinction, and they are. And let’s be honest, they were suffering well before August 29, 2005. We’ve become those “resilient” folks who exorcize away every tragedy with a second line or a pot of red beans.

“Ooh, baby… you fell and skinned your knee? Come on inside and let Maw Maw heat up some gumbo to help take your mind off the pain.”

We’ve become “those” people…

Strike Up The Band

FairviewThe Real New Orleans of old would never have a second line as a 10-year commemoration for a flood. Today marks the 50th “anniversary” of Betsy. I don’t see no second lines for that. I guess Betsy wasn’t as sexy of a hurricane as Katrina.

The Real New Orleans would boycott and/or picket this second line. This Katrinaversary is all media hype. It’s sick and twisted thinking. Disaster capitalism is alive and kickin’. A second line to honor the dead used to be a solemn occasion. It was respectful to the deceased and their families. The first line used to be the family. The second line was those who came to pay homage. They should call this Katrinaversary parade a third line in honor of all the carpetbaggers we’ve turned this city over to, thus making a caricaturization of this once sacred land.

There has always been a criminal and violent element here. There were always structural issues. I remember hearing that my mentor Danny Barker once said, “I’d rather be a lamppost in New York, than to live in New Orleans.” I heard he got a lot of shit for making that comment, but he made good on it by returning. In case you don’t know who Danny Barker is, if you’ve ever seen that video of Billie Holiday singing “Fine and Mellow,” he’s the cat on guitar.

Danny Barker gave me my first steady, sit-down trad gig. He was clear to tell me “We don’t call it ‘jazz.’ It’s Traditional New Orleans Music.” We played as a trio with Shannon Powell on drums at The Famous Door on Bourbon Street. I was 12-years-old. I remember the first day we played, the owner pulled Mr. Barker to the side and said “Hey, that kid is too young to be up there.” Mr. Barker had my back. He told the owner, “Here, we’ll just slap my fedora on his head and no one will notice.” Genius. I still wear a fedora on my head when I play, to this very day.

That’s the Real New Orleans — the passing down of the torch from master to student — the way King Oliver did for Louis Armstrong. It’s what Danny Barker did for New Orleans when he started the Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band. I subscribe to the theory that it was his solution to what he saw as a generation of younger people not hip to the brass band tradition. It also helped to take a lot of kids off of the streets so they wouldn’t get in trouble. Genius.

Well, those days are long gone. Now many of these brass bands can only play in one, or two keys, if you’re lucky. It’s not a put down, but our culture has devolved. It has ceased to be important to us. And let’s stop blaming Katrina like New Orleans was paradise before the flood.

See, I thought the flood would give us a clean slate. There’s a contingency in New Orleans that always believed that if this city became too forward-thinking it would lose its charm. That mindset kept New Orleans in a perpetual state of negative static pressure, which restricts flow. Since so much was lost as a result of the flood, I thought this was our shot. Well, that ship has sailed… Ironically enough, we’ve changed a lot by adopting all the wrong new things, while miraculously keeping all fuckedupdedness in tact. Genius. One plus is that per capita there are more bars serving craft spirits and beers than ever was.

Back-O’-Town Blues

And, for God’s sake, let’s stop calling it a “Katrina” anniversary, and “Katrina” this or that. Katrina had come and gone. What destroyed New Orleans were those levees. Some say they were compromised intentionally. I can’t say that for sure, though, I don’t put it past them. What I do know is it didn’t have to happen. The city was warned about those faulty structures for years. And even given that, the federal response to the disaster was abysmal. So, let’s be clear: God may have created Katrina, but God did not design those levees. And God travels at a speed much faster than George W. or Brownie, who did a “heck of a job.”

The future of this city is in the hands of the little ones now…

Letters Cover 052615-page-001



— Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop

What Folks Have To Say About “Letters” . . .

Well, folks… There you have it. We at PAYTONE Records are appreciative of the above comments and others. Getting love like this from folks affirms why I do what I do.

Download here:


Hardcopy CD with artwork and liner notes:


CD Baby


— Nicholas Payton aka The President of PAYTONE Records

Letters Cover 052615-page-001


Letters Cover 052615-page-001“LETTERS”
The new recording by NICHOLAS PAYTON to be Released August 7, 2015
26 Tracks of Mastery on Full Display!

Being a pianist, I am fascinated in hearing how musicians whose primary instrument is not the
piano, touch the keys. While there are seemingly no limits to the variety of sounds which can
be achieved through the instrument, I’ve noticed that horn players, bassists, drummers and
vocalists inevitably approach the piano with an unaffected kind of fresh take, untethered by
constraints imposed by the ego of a self-claimed pianist.

With crystal clear articulation and a refreshingly welcoming economy of notes, Nicholas
achieves such a warm, infectiously optimistic mood from the piano without broadcasting any
sort of agenda to exhibit “pianism.” And this lack of a projected impulse to affect a virtuosic
front creates some of the most inviting piano I’ve heard in recent times.

The mutual respect within the band is abundantly apparent in every turn of phrase. Anyone
who’s truly listening can sense that Nicholas, Vicente and Bill love playing together. This is an
energetically engaged band. All three players are so versed in music that they share values
and an unspoken attitude of zero jiveness or “show biz” trickery in their collective approaches.
This music is fertile and potent with emotion, and all the while the wide-ranging sweep of
moods represented on these two discs is doing things to your ears and body, there is an
ongoing dialogue in every moment for the intellectual seeker to feast on.

Nicholas’ piano playing reveals an unhampered approach to telling a story and connecting with
the rhythm section organically rather than stacking upon them. This chemistry mirrors how
much easier it becomes for humans to connect in substantial ways when egos are set aside
with an intention to support and compliment one another. Nicholas’ piano playing speaks with
the clarity of honesty and a noticeably selfless, organic vibe that I must say I’ve never quite
heard or felt before.

There is a sonorous nature to the songs and intervals which cause a piece we’ve never previously heard to feel like a hip long-lost friend, like meeting someone and intuitively feeling so relaxed around them as though you’ve known them all your life.

~Benny Green, 2015

The Savior of Archaic Pop Meets The Human Jukebox

This year I had the honor of realizing a dream come true — to play with the Southern University Marching Band at Bayou Classic.

If you were watching the game on TV, you may have noticed NBC didn’t air the halftime show in its entirety (#mfcomn), so here is some of what you didn’t see.



— Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop


Part I: The Rise of Capitalism and The Fall of Culture


There is no such thing as racial equality, because race is a false construct designed for the specific purposes of ensuring inequality. And though the concept of race may be false, the consequences are very real. It is because of race that we’re always plagued with concepts of superiority and inferiority. Culture has a natural respect for other culture. The powers that be don’t want us to exist on a cultural plane because no one can dominate there. Culture is fluid, expressive, artistic, and most of all, human.

When Christopher Columbus introduced capitalism to the New World, it signified a shift in world thought. The age-old defense for racism is that people were enslaved before European colonialism, but it was a different type of slavery. It wasn’t the brand of chattel slavery that was introduced around the middle of the 15th century. The mass genocide of ancient peoples of indigenous cultures changed the tenor of society at large. We are not born a race, we are raced.

Another excuse for the perpetuation of racism is that the very discussion of race is racist, which is plausible. To talk about something is to acknowledge it, and has the power to be spoken into existence. The flip side is that there is no way to dismantle racism without discussing it. We live in a world of words, and those words are attached to thoughts and create ideas. The first rule of colonization is to change the name of that which you wish to have control over. The next thing you do is disallow those you wish to oppress from speaking their native tongue. Not only can they not communicate with one another, but they have to change how they communicate with themselves. Next you force them to speak your language, worship your God, and so forth.

“So, if you really want to hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity — I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself.”

Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Steal Away

When you take away a people’s ability to communicate with one another in their language, you take away their humanity. They can no longer see themselves as they were or as they are. They are forced to see themselves through the oppressor’s lens. Our relationship with one another is what makes us human. English has become the international language, and because the most powerful English-speaking nation is America, American thought has become the most pervasive. That’s what’s so important about Congo Square — one of the only places in America where the enslaved Africans were allowed to practice drumming, dancing, singing, and other rituals. Because their oppressors underestimated the Africans’ spiritual practices as simply a way for the enslaved to amuse themselves, the Africans developed a new language, The Blues.

This is not to be taken lightly. Long before there was a Civil Rights Movement, The Blues was the first liberator of the displaced African mind. It is through The Blues that our African ancestors reconnected to their memory of who they were before they were slaves. And though they were forced to believe in a god that looked nothing like them, they were able to see the biblical allegory in how the story of the oppressed children of Israel related to their current situation. And even though Europeans created God in their own image by making Jesus a White man, Black people strongly identified with his loving, yet persecuted spirit. What many of the slaves probably didn’t recognize at the time was that this Jesus they were worshipping shared many parallels with the gods of their ancient African mythologies, which predated Christianity by centuries.


The word “ism” often implies a condition, category or doctrine, whereas “ology” denotes the science or study of a particular subject. When an “ism” is involved, it’s typically something that’s been defined which someone is trying to put on you. With an “ology,” there’s usually room for exploration.

The All-Seeing I of Whore Us, Sun of God


Horus is a mythological Egyptian god born of the Virgin Isis on December 25th in a manger. Being known as “lord of the sky,” Horus was considered a sun god. Over time, the name was abbreviated to Hor. Isn’t it ironic that “whore” in English is a disgraceful word, which is a great example of how colonization through language can blaspheme the spiritual practices of the oppressed and make what was once profound, profane. It’s akin to how the English language bastardized the Latin word for black, “niger,” which shares phonetics with the Sankrit word “naga,” which means snake. Snakes, or nagas in many ancient cultures, were gods. In English thought, a snake is typically a lowdown being which can’t be trusted. Just goes to show how language can transform a deity into something dirty. So the next time someone calls you “whore,” “Nigger,” or “snake,” don’t get upset. They’re just acknowledging the God within you.

Blame It On The Son


“As long as you think you’re white, there is no hope for you.”

— James Baldwin

Black people are a resilient people to have survived the atrocities they have over the last 5 centuries, but it’s time to stop getting by and start living. Black people can’t end racism because Black people didn’t create it. This is something White people must resolve amongst themselves. And being Black is not the same as being White. Black is just another word for African. White specifies no cultural ties in particular. It is merely a social title whose sole existence is for the perpetuation of an idea of superiority in the race totem pole which engenders the White race with dominion over all others. There was a time where you had to at least have white skin to be White, and even then that wasn’t enough. Now Supremacy is doled out to anyone who worships at the White altar.

So when you attack race, you’re not attacking people, you’re attacking an idea — and a false one at that. And it doesn’t make you racist for talking about race. It makes you human.


— Nicholas Payton aka The Creator of #BAM


On The New Yorker “Satirizing” Sonny


Charlie Parker died to play this music. Bud Powell died to play this music. After suffering through the worst holocaust in human history, these brilliant Black artists gave the world a gift. This gift was so potent that not only did it help them leverage some modicum of autonomy, but helped other oppressed peoples of the world find themselves. It even freed the souls of those who uprooted them from their homeland of Africa and enslaved them for centuries in a land not theirs. It is through Black music that White America began the process of healing itself.

I didn’t think back in May of 2005 when I was generously quoted in Stanley Crouch’s piece entitled, “The Colossus,” which extolled the virtues of Master Rollins, that I would have to sit up here today and call out the same publication for attempting to besmirch his character. I hesitate to write this piece because I don’t think this drivel posing as satire deserves any more attention than it’s already garnered, but as Bishop Desmond Tutu has said:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Theodore Walter “Sonny” Rollins is no mouse. He is a man. A man who, like Bird and Bud, has also given his life to Black music that has been categorically reduced to a little thing called “jazz.” Calling Black music “Jazz,” is the oppressor’s way of being able to put on white gloves and sing “Mammy” in blackface, while saying don’t get offended because it’s just “satire.” You might say to yourself that was 100 years ago, but the trend still continues as a more subtle head game in today’s media. As the article says, “Jazz might be the stupidest thing anyone ever came up with.” I agree. It’s the spirit of “Jazz” that allows some people to think it’s funny that some 83-year-old Black musician spent 70 years of his life playing an instrument that sounds like a “scared pig.” Perhaps he did so not because he loved it, but because he was so stupid “he never learned the names of the other instruments.”

Here’s one of the most respected American periodicals posting a picture of a somber-faced Sonny with a piece “in his own words,” rhapsodizing about how he hates music and he’s wasted his life. Where’s the humor in that?

Of course Black people aren’t capable of contributing anything to society more than “noodling around” on their instruments. I mean, according to The New Yorker:

“I really don’t know why I keep doing this. Inertia, I guess. Once you get stuck in a rut, it’s difficult to pull yourself out, even if you hate every minute of it. Maybe I’m just a coward.”

Wow, that’s funny! It’s about as funny as some White people think it is to let their kids run wild in a restaurant or on an airplane terrorizing the other patrons. It’s about as funny as how those kids grow up to be government officials who terrorize Africans or Palestinians. It’s about as funny as that writer in The Onion who called 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis a cunt on Oscar night.

It is no irony that this “Django Gold” who wrote this piece is a senior writer for The Onion. And it doesn’t matter to me what color this Django is, it’s nerdy White boy humor. Someone at The New Yorker shouldn’t have left that Django Unchained.

I get that White people and Black people have cultural differences and thus a different sense of humor. Given that to be the case, White people: stick to satirizing those who get your sense of humor. Leave Black people be. You’ve done enough over the past 500 years. Black life in a world of White oppression and supremacy is satirical enough. We don’t need your help adding to it.

Meanwhile in Rolling Stone magazine, a real article came out that reads like satire. Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga are doing a “Jazz” album. Tony goes on in this piece to say about Gaga, “She’s as good as Ella Fitzgerald…”

Nigga, please?! Lady Gaga ain’t fit to wear Ella’s dirty draws.

To top it off, the album has the nerve to be called Cheek to Cheek. How apropos for two people making an ass out of themselves caricaturizing Black music. All due respect to Bennett, but he’s never been a great. He was just lucky enough to outlive all the true greats of his era.

“Jazz is a marketing ploy that serves an elite few. The elite make all the money while they tell the true artists it’s cool to be broke.”

— Nicholas Payton (from On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore)

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a White publication like The New Yorker would take veiled shots at Sonny posing as satire. Isn’t that the point of White media? It’s a tool by which to sustain their supremacy and privilege by subjugating all others to the minority class. Blacks have been satirized in the media as Niggers for years. I find it a bit interesting that this week on August 3rd, 1492, Christopher Columbus set out on the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria to begin the age of capitalism and colonization.

Perhaps Christopher Columbus is the greatest satirist of all time. Isn’t he responsible for promulgating the idea that non-Christian people of color were just pawns in the White man’s game? Here’s a dude who’s proclaimed to have discovered America while trying to reach Asia, but actually landed in the Bahamas. Hell bent on selling the narrative that he’d landed in Asia he called the inhabitants, “Indians.” Furthermore to solidify his story, he made the other voyagers sign an oath promising to lie, and if they broke that oath they would have their tongues cut out.

How’s that for satire?

Let me tell you what Sonny really said in his own words:

“I was born black. That means in this world I’m going to have problems. That’s what I have to deal with in this life: being born black.”


— Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop


The #BAM Babies in Anticipation of “Numbers”


You guys might remember Sam “The #BAM Baby”? Well, his little sister, Skylar has joined the #BAM fold. They are excited for my new release, “Numbers.”

Coming soon! July 22…

Available here for iTunes pre-sale: