Payton’s Dissertation On Bebop and Hiphop . . .

The notes in Bebop and the lyrics in Hiphop both mean nothing without a syncopated rhythmic cadence.

Syncopation : “a temporary displacement of the regular metrical accent in music caused typically by stressing the weak beat.”

Syncopation is important in Black music because Blacks were strong in areas where they were expected to be weak. In Hiphop, you are not a dope MC if you do not have a strong rhythmic concept to your flow. I don’t care how lyrically brilliant you are.

It’s the same in Bebop. I don’t care how many 8th or 16th notes you can effortlessly string along in your lines. Without a syncopated rhythmic inflection, your lines mean nothing.

The “triplet” feel is the driving rhythmic undercurrent in both Bebop and Hiphop. Tap into the tribal rhythmic code and you unlock the mystery of the Black American musical aesthetic. The sounds and voices may have changed over the years, but the DNA of the Black rhythmic code has remained in tact. All music does not have to pay deference to this rhythmic code, just Black American music.

Free Jazz is a misnomer. There is no way for Jazz to be free, for the moment you call it Jazz you’ve already put the music in shackles.

The objective of a loop in Hiphop is to isolate a rhythmic pattern and make it recur as to induce the listener to a trance like state. In Bebop, all of the instrumentalists have an individual linear identity thus forming a constant contrapuntal conversation. In Hiphop, the primary linear voice is the MC who flows atop the rhythm section which typically employs a loop pattern as backdrop.

So, in many ways, Hiphop is a return to the New Orleans tradition of the linear solo voice on top of the circular rhythm section. The linear/circular dynamic has been an important motif throughout the development of music as a medium for at least the last century.

For example, the first commercial recordings were phonograph cylinders then later gramophone disks played by a needle.

Circles and lines.

The ride cymbal pattern, (a Black invention) which is central to swing rhythm, is carried out with stick (line) to cymbal (circle).

Check out Papa Joe Jones playing the ride cymbal pattern on the hi-hat.

The advent of the compact cassette also followed this trend as tape is a line and the tape head is a circle.

tape head 1

Musical notation itself is written in a series of lines and circles.

joplin 71 1

The compact disc came along and usurped both the vinyl album and the cassette but did not break the circle(disc)/line(laser) trend. Soon, the physical disc will be obsolete and all info will be digital which is based on a binary format – 0s & 1s (circles & lines).

Earlier I discussed rhythmic syncopation, but there is also what I have coined “harmonic syncopation” as well. Playing the blues is what I would call “harmonic syncopation”. Now harmonic syncopation can be where you start and stop the notes as well as the pitch of the notes themselves.

The Blues is not a form, it’s a feel.

Just as rhythmic syncopation places emphasis on beats in between beats, harmonic syncopation emphasizes notes in between notes.

The first scale we typically learn in school is the C diatonic scale. C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C.

c scale2 1

The bluesman typically favors notes in between that scale. They are the blue notes. Db-Eb-Gb-Ab-Bb.

keyb w staff21 1

I don’t believe it to be a coincidence those notes the bluesmen favor are on the “black” keys in the diagram.

Now an interesting thing happens to the acoustic waveform when one plays those blue (dissonant) notes. . . .

The more dissonant (blue) a note is, the more asymmetrical (syncopated) the pattern in the waveform.

acoustic wave 8 1

The swing (or shuffle) feel is very primal to human nature.

The heart itself swings in a syncopated pattern.

It is not metrically even.

There is a lope in the beat or a shuffle.

The typical heartbeat would be notated as this:

shufflerhythm 1

…which is the traditional rhythmic underpinning of all Black American music.

A classic example of the Blues Shuffle is. . . .

Jimmy’s left-hand is organ bass is mimicking the primal sound of the heartbeat.

A heartbeat, a shuffle, and the blues in Hiphop:

An EKG is used to record the heartbeat. . . .

ekg 1

An MPC is used to record Hiphop beats…

mpc3000 panel 1

That is all, for now.

– Nicholas Payton

On Egypt . . .

This is a poem I wrote back in 2006 called The Egyptian Second Line:

brick by brick
black builders create
structures that defy
what those without
color conceive not
fear doesn’t allow
them to believe
or us to accept
how we are
duplicitous beings
bound by shackles
but mind is free
smooth as a tsunami
quiet as thunder
slow as the blink of an eye

the pharoah needs no mirror
to shave her face in the night
remember we are lynched
by the same ropes
we used to lift the pyramids
it is our mournful bliss
as we square dance around the prism
passersby in our own land lost
as a pig blindfolded in a bull ring

sleeping with the tell-a-vision
my dreams are fed to me
rendering my subconscience
out of earshot
the hands of the clock stand still
dali watches my every move
diseased mind migrates
while my body jitterbugs
possesed by jungle ghosts

behind the other side of the door
my true self awaits me to answer
knock, knock
who’s there?
you who?
you who enslaves yourself
in order to find freedom

– Nicholas Payton

An Interview with Nenad Georgievski . . .


  • Please tell me about the musical scene in New Orleans while you were growing up, as you began playing professionally at a young age.


New Orleans was and still is home to some of the most talented musicians in the world. There is a strong social aesthetic in the music there. It’s all about the people.


  • Throughout your career you did several tribute projects of your own (Gumbo Nouveau, Dear Louis) or with other people (Fingerpainting, Mysterious Shorter). How have these people whose music you covered affected your sound and conception? How have they each made an impression on you?


I don’t know if projects make an impression, but rather life makes the impression and inspires the project. By the time the music comes out of the horn, it’s done – time to move on to something else.


  • What are some of your favorite releases by other performers, old and new?

Stevie Wonder; Earth, Wind and Fire; Miles; Anita Baker; Clifford Brown; Wayne Shorter; and D’ Angelo are amongst my favorite artists. Their output is pretty consistent. I like artists who you can chronicle their development by way of the material they release.


  • You’ve had some great musical figures that you have learned from – pianist Ellis Marsalis and your father in particular. How do you feel that they really illuminated for you things about improvisation and presentation?


It’s all about life, never about music. Experience begets music. Great teachers learn how to inspire one into finding their own way. It’s all in you; the issue for the teacher is how to put you in touch with it.




  • Please describe the creative process behind Into the Blue.


No process at all other than to create music that was true, beautiful and sophisticated.


  • What tend to be the biggest challenges when you are writing?


I don’t have many challenges these days compositionally. It’s not that I think I’m great or anything, it just that I’ve learned not to write if I don’t hear something. I always want the feeling of flow in my compositions – truth. I write until I can’t hear anymore. Earlier on the challenge for me was to write inspite of not believing in my tunes. If you can learn to write past that, I believe you can write in any given situation.

·      Sonic Trance was a record that was some sort of departure for you. Please describe your transition from straight-ahead jazz to the much more expansive approach you brought to the form with this record (including Into the Blue).

I don’t look at Sonic Trance as a departure, but rather an inclusion of ALL the music that I love. Into The Blue is that idea presented in a more concise fashion.

  • Most jazz purists frown on rock or any other form. They seem to be adverse to acid jazz or fusion. Do you find that kind of mentality is healthy for jazz or does it convey an elitist message?


I feel that there is enough room in jazz for everyone to have an opinion of their own. People have had that argument from the beginning about what is and what is not jazz. My question is, does it really matter? What I think would be healthy for jazz is if people spent a lot less time thinking about it and more time enjoying the music.


  • How do you look on your first record From This Moment?


I feel it’s a respectable snapshot of where I was at the time.  It’s about as true of a record as I’ll ever make. I was completely untainted at that time. It was just a collection of the tunes I thought of as my best, played by some of my favorite musicians in as many varied styles as I felt comfortable representing at that time.

Playing with Clark Terry, Ray Brown, and Roy Haynes has been amongst the most inspiring experiences. Christian, Josh, and Roy are my peers. I believe we’ve all learned from one another. Dr. White gave me a lot of my first gigs; both he and Gregg Stafford really looked out for me. I only got to play with Joe once, but that experience was a dream come true. The thing I did with Jill Scott was really cool.

  • What memories do you have of working with Doc Chetham? That collaboration has won you a Grammy.

The Grammy was just the icing on the cake. Doc was a soulful cat. He was real; a gentleman. You’d be hard pressed to find someone around these days who exudes so much class. Warm person, warm sound.







  • What is your opinion on Ken Burns’ Jazz series?


I didn’t see what all the controversy was about. I felt is was nicely done. Did it represent all of what I feel is important about jazz music? No, but it was Wynton’s and Ken Burns’ thing. It’s their right to focus on whatever they like. Whomever had a problem with rather or not it was a “fair” representation historically has the option of making their own documentary. Complaining rarely solves any problem. For the couple of weeks it aired, America was transfixed on the series. I feel the jazz industry lost a big opportunity when they didn’t maximize the opportunity to capitalize on all the airtime jazz was getting.


  • To my opinion the music industry is more focused on releasing archival material rather than moving the music forward. What is your opinion on this?


The industry can’t move the music forward, the musicians have to do that. The industry is what it is, always has been,  and always will be.  The industry doesn’t have a vision, they’re only interested in the bottomline and finding fomulas for success. The industry’s success is based on the artists, not the other way around – unless we’re talking about talentless «icons» who the industry likes because they have no vision. They’re a blank slate that can be molded into an idea. But that’s not music; that’s a product – which confuses some people. I believe there are too many cats waiting around for something to happen. That day will never come. Musicians have to bring what they want into existence. If the artist doesn’t have an idea how to get their music to the people, it’s very unlikely that someone who knows absolutely nothing about music will. A good example of  an industry head who can bring the music forward is Russell Simmons. He’s passionate and willing, something lacking with a lot of folks on the business side of things.  If jazz could find someone ambitious and savvy like that to get the music to the people, then we’d see something!


  • Long time ago the primary venues for jazz used to be nightclubs which were the places where jazz fans and jazz musicians came together. How much do you think the orientation toward special events like annual jazz festivals, seasons with one-night-only concerts changes the way audiences relate to jazz?

I think a variety of venues is important to the viability of the music. I don’t believe it hurts. Some people like small, intimate settings; some opt to be outside in the sun with plenty folks.  The more types of places cats can play, the better. I think the way musicians play, and the way these clubs, festivals, and performing arts centers are run has more to do with how the music is received than the venue itself. Again, it’s about people.


  • What is the biggest challenge in building a jazz audience?


I don’t know if building the audience is as much of a problem as sustaining interest. If you can get folks there, sustain their interest, move them – they will build your audience for you. I just think that there’s too much jazz out there that’s not moving people in a real way.


  • What are the biggest challenges you face as a musician today?


If I had no more challenges, I’m not sure what I would do. Struggle is a blessing. Something’s wrong when everything seems fine. I will say that, in my country, there’s a lack of appreciation for art in our culture that is a direct result of the disintegration of music programs in schools. Kids today have no idea how a double-bass looks, much less how it sounds. There’s no value in the amount of discipline it takes to be a virtouso.  There is, however, widespread appreciation for the skills it takes dance around on stage with six-pack abs.


  • What do you envision for the band and future projects?


I try to have as little to do with where I’m going creatively as possible. I don’t want to get in the way. There maybe something out there larger than I’m capable of imagining and if I get too involved, it just might not happen.



On Freedom . . .

Freedom is…
being able to breathe deeply.

Freedom is…
falling down and getting back up again.

Freedom is…
accepting  both pain and happiness as fleeting friends.

Freedom is…
the absence of fear.

Freedom is…
knowing when you don’t know what you’re doing.

Freedom  is…
always moving in stillness.

Freedom is…
a quiet bang.

Freedom is…
forgetting your yesterdays never thinking of tomorrow.

Freedom is…
never  owning anything or owing  anybody.

Freedom is…
receiving with open arms.

Freedom is…
giving without  expectation.

Freedom is…
loving what you are.

Freedom  is…
loving what you are not.

Freedom is…
being brave enough to suffer death so you may receive life.

But most of all,

Freedom is trying never to be free.

To know freedom is to know you.

– Nicholas Payton

On Heaven . . .

Heaven is knowing who you are.
Heaven is seeing that day is day and night is night.
Heaven is not knowing that you’re in heaven.
Heaven is never wanting to go to heaven.

– Nicholas Payton

On Hell . . .

Hell is not knowing who you are.
Hell is wanting something you already have.
Hell is expecting someone to love you more than you.
Hell is believing that hell really exists.

– Nicholas Payton