On Humanity…

There is little kind about humankind.

“Humanity” is a fairly modern construct designed to separate people from their Light within. Without a connection to Light, people are in darkness and need to design a hierarchal pyramid and put others down in order to feel better about themselves.

As long as this false, “human” hierarchal pyramid construct exists, there can be no collective consciousness or evolution.

The higher-ups have folks fooled that being human is cool, when humanity is the root source of the problem.

“Human” is a race, and as long as humanity exists, racism exists. Human beings will always defer to a hierarchal and oppressive system. Only light beings can ultimately transcend and evolve.

While you’re waiting for God to save you, God is waiting for you to save yourself.

God, The Light, is within.


— Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop

On Louis Armstrong…

We owe an incredible debt to Armstrong because he really is the fulcrum of American music. Certainly there were masters before him, but everything got funneled and distilled through him to what we have now – from Swing to Rock, from Funk to Hiphop. He changed the feel. It’s one thing to have your own feel, but it’s an entirely different thing to change the conception of what a quarter note feels like. I can’t think of anyone in recorded history who’s done that. And we’re still borrowing his quarter notes – the forward motion and the pulse of that, he changed feel forever.


-Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop

The Nicholas Payton Quintet: Live at the Village Vanguard 1997




Inspired by a post of the original handwritten chart to my composition “Back to the Source,” and the convo that ensued on Instagram, I went to look for a DAT tape of my band at the Village Vanguard in 1997. As a band, we did a lot of gigs over the 5 years we were together and I still remember this one quite vividly. Not just because a recording of it exists, but there was a magical vibe in the room that night. Rarely do these nights make it to tape. They are usually rhapsodized about via word of mouth.

Well, here it is:

FullSizeRender (3)

There were lots of kats in the house this evening. A couple of them had just moved to NYC from Houston for college: Mike Moreno and Robert Glasper. I didn’t know them then, but they would both play in various bands of mine in the years to come. Their friend, and fellow trumpeter, Carlos Abadie was with them. The late great James Williams was in the house, and was sure to school us on what he heard as a wrong chord on the ballad I chose to close the set with, “I’m Old Fashioned.”

The full set list is as follows (all compositions by me unless noted):

Back to the Source
Paraphernalia (Wayne Shorter)
The Last Goodbye
Concentric Circles
United (Wayne Shorter)
I’m Old Fashioned (Kern & Mercer)

Most of the tunes on this set would appear on our then upcoming album, Payton’s Place. “Back to the Source” is an uptempo burnout song in the tradition of Freddie Hubbard’s “The Intrepid Fox” or Branford Marsalis’ “Spartacus.” For the uninitiated, “burnout” is a way of playing that was invented primarily by Miles Davis and John Coltrane. It’s often modal with few chords, but not necessarily. It has more to do with the rhythmic and harmonic abandon one plays with and it’s typically high energy, but can also be sultry and seductive. Rhythmic interplay is really the hallmark.  “Back to the Source” is more structured burnout. “Paraphernalia” was pretty much vamp-based with the cue system for Miles’ studio version. We play it completely free after the melody while still employing the cue system as a jump off point.

“Concentric Circles” is one of my most influential compositions to date. It’s commonplace now, but no one was doing this when we recorded it 20 years ago. It’s burnout, but it uses what I call fixed broken time in the second half of the form. The syncopated swagger of those pivots provide an underpinning that’s conducive to some real Negroidery.

“The Last Goodbye” was written for our then recently departed brother and fellow musician, Charles “Dia” Taylor, affectionately known to some as “Alto.” He and I were friends long before we knew each other as musicians.

Years before, Steve Turre laid a bootleg on me of Woody Shaw playing “United,” amongst other tunes, at the Vanguard in 1981. When I saw he was in the house, I thought it would be fitting for us to jam on it.

A couple of things to note here: The sound system went out during our first night of the week on Tuesday. It felt so good, we decided to play the rest of the week with no microphones. What you hear on this recording is the pure acoustic sound of the room. We also did two albums during that week, Adonis’ debut album, Song for Donise, and I recorded with Tim for his Gentle Warrior album.

The Nicholas Payton Quintet is:

Nicholas Payton: trumpet
Tim Warfield: tenor sax
Anthony Wonsey: piano
Reuben Rogers: bass
Adonis Rose: drums


There that is. Enjoy!



—Nicholas Payton aka The King of Research



On Why Adele Won Over Beyoncé…


I’m not here to white knight Beyoncé. Lord knows Kanye has had that job on lock for about a decade. I do, however, feel I need to lend my voice to this discussion.

I was going to keep my thoughts to myself on this issue, because I get tired of being That Guy. But I feel compelled to write about it because, as usual, if I don’t say it, it appears not to be said. On the other hand, I’m also tired of talking about White People’s Things like they owe it to us to be fair. No, they don’t, which is exactly why they created White People’s Things.

Unlike for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I can’t find the exact demographics for the voters of the Recording Academy, but I’m willing to put my head on a chopping block to say that I’m sure it’s majority White and male. I’m sure the same applies to the executives and the staff. So when we look at who wins and why, the first thing we need to address is race.


That said, according to the president of the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow, a White male, “I don’t think there’s a race problem at all. Remember, this is a peer-voted award. So when we say the Grammys, it’s not a corporate entity — it’s the 14,000 members of the academy. They have to qualify in order to be members, which means they have to have recorded and released music, and so they are sort of the experts and the highest level of professionals in the industry.”


Again, another White person deciding when systemic racism issa problem. Sorry, you don’t get a vote. Of course you wouldn’t see a problem, because you are a part of the privileged class. Who decided you get to be president? Who controls the money? Who decides who performs? The Grammys are essentially an awards show for Black music, yet by the looks of the telecast, there’s very little Black representation. All American music is Black music. All American culture is Black culture. Everything else comes from somewhere else.

Bruno Mars, a talented Latino dude, who was featured more prominently than any other performer on the Grammys the other night, agrees:

“When you say ‘black music,’ understand that you are talking about rock, jazz, R&B, reggae, funk, doo-wop, hip-hop, and Motown. Black people created it all. Being Puerto Rican, even salsa music stems back to the Motherland [Africa]. So, in my world, black music means everything,” he said.

— Bruno Mars calls Adele ‘a diva’ with ‘all this attitude’ — 

“It’s what gives America its swag. I’m a child raised in the ‘90s. Pop music was heavily rooted in R&B from Whitney, Diddy, Dr. Dre, Boyz II Men, Aaliyah, TLC, Babyface, New Edition, Michael, and so much more. As kids this is what was playing on MTV and the radio. This is what we were dancing to at school functions and BBQs. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these artists who inspired me. They have brought me so much joy and created the soundtrack to my life filled with memories that I’ll never forget,” he added.

“Most importantly, they were the superstars that set the bar for me and showed me what it takes to sing a song that can get the whole world dancing, or give a performance that people will talk about forever. Watching them made me feel like I had to be as great as they were in order to even stand a chance in this music business. You gotta sing as if Jodeci is performing after you and dance as if Bobby Brown is coming up next.”

On the flip side of the Latino perspective, we have the opinion of Carlos Santana who shockingly seems to agree with Portnow that race wasn’t a factor in Adele winning:


I am really surprised that Carlos said this. This is the same cat who called the Grammys “racist” in 2011. Why can’t he see that it’s a factor here? What he said is so problematic for a multitude of reasons. I respect him as an O.G. in this game. He was even gracious enough to invite me to play with him onstage a couple times, but a statement like this from an artist with as much clout as he is reckless and damaging. It helps to justify the thinking of people like the president of NARAS that the Grammys doesn’t have a race problem.

First off, the notion that Adele won because she can “sing, sing” is way off base. By saying this makes it seem like every artist who wins Album of The Year, or any other Grammy for that matter, wins because they are a superior artist. Santana knows better than this. The Grammys, by and large, is a popularity contest tailored to White tastes. We don’t live in a meritocracy where the best always get what they deserve. To the contrary, we are living in a society where qualifications are a liability, and the more mediocre you are, the more likely you are to succeed. See the recent presidential election to corroborate that.


And is Santana suggesting that Adele is that much better a singer than Beyoncé is why she won? So is that why Beck beat Beyoncé out for Album of the Year, too? Beyoncé is not an “Urban” artist. She is the world’s biggest Pop star, and has been for about 15 years. I know Adele is the current crowned queen of blue-eyed soul, but Beyoncé is authentically soulful. She’s lived the experiences that the Blues is all about. And though I often feel her material doesn’t always reflect it, she has an amazing voice. Celine Dion thinks so. Now Celine can sing, sing. Her instrument is flawless. She attended the Grammys the other night mostly to watch Bey. And watch Celine’s reaction from this concert in 2002 damn near every time Beyoncé opens her mouth.

It’s hard enough to get on stage flatfooted and sing. It doesn’t make it easier when you’re doing an intricate dance routine whilst performing. And to make it look effortless is the icing on the cake. To reduce Beyoncé to someone who is “very beautiful to look at” and “music to model a dress” is not only sexist, but falls in line with centuries of White men who have objectified Black women.

Even Adele doesn’t agree with Santana. Of Beyoncé she said:

“I can’t possibly accept this award. The Lemonade album was just so monumental, Beyoncé. It was so monumental and well thought-out and beautiful and soul-baring… we appreciate that. All of us artists here adore you. You are our light.”

She goes on to say backstage…

Beyoncé has been Adele’s icon her whole life. Perhaps that may have been a factor in Adele choking during her performance, I don’t know. I do know I’ve never seen that happen to Beyoncé. I’ve seen Beyoncé fall down the stairs because her heels were too high. I’ve seen her hair get caught in a fan. But I’ve never seen her choke like that. She does not stop. If you fuck up during a performance, keep going. It’s likely no one will notice. It’s called “professionalism.”

“My album of the year is Lemonade, so part of me did die inside as a Beyoncé fan — not going to lie. I was completely rooting for her, I voted for her. I felt it was her time to win. What the fuck does she have to do to win album of the year?”


What does she have to do? I think Solange hit the nail on the head.




— Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop

Brooklyn Academy of Music Threatens The Creator of #BAM


So, I get this email today from Brooklyn Academy of Music legal team trying to shake me down from withdrawing my application to trademark #BAM: Black American Music. I’m shocked and appalled for several reasons.

According to the letter above, we presented #BAM at BAM two years ago. We were in talks for years before that trying to put that gig together until Danny Kapilian stepped in and made it happen so beautifully. Thanks, Danny. It was a joyous and momentous occasion outdoors at the MetroTech in Brooklyn. If you all had a problem with it, why didn’t you come after me then? You were full aware that I had been using it for years, only now you conveniently take issue with it.

You attempting to get me to abandon my mission to save Black music is antithetical to your edict as an arts administration. You are supposed to be assisting artists like myself and helping the community, not engaging in legal battles against them and trying to stand in the way of their progress. Kudos to your “diverse” executive staff, by the way…


How does my trademark infringe on you? At no point in the five plus years of me using #BAM has anyone confused the Black American Music movement with your organization. We are in two entirely different lanes. Clearly your trademark legal staff doesn’t understand how this works. I don’t have to withdraw my application or prove its validity because you ask. I’ve already received the trademark. It is you who has the burden of proof that #BAM is infringing on your trademark, and that I’m interfering with your ability to make money, and that there’s confusion in the marketplace, which we know you had no issue with two years ago when you booked me to present #BAM for a gig.

Also, we’re in two different classifications:

Black American Music

Goods and Services Classification: IC 009.

US 021 023 026 036 038

G&S: Audio and video recordings featuring music and artistic performance.
(i.e. Brooklyn Academy of Music)
Goods and Services Classification: IC 041
US 100 101 107
G&S: Live performances by musical groups featuring orchestral, jazz, rock, and pop music; live dance performances; live operas, dramatic and musical stage plays; continuing entertainment exhibitions in the nature of film; providing facilities for art exhibitions. First use: 1972
While similar classifications, they’re not identical.
Also, my trademark is #BAM: Black American Music attached to my logo. Our logos are not the same. Yours is three, simple, mediocre, white initials on top of a black background. How apropos!
This is my logo. No one has, nor would ever be likely to confuse the two.
Here are The Polaroid Factors:
  • Strength of plaintiff’s mark
  • Degree of similarity between the two marks
  • the proximity of goods and services of the parties
  • the likelihood that the plaintiff will bridge the gap between the products
  • evidence of actual confusion
  • defendant’s intent in adopting the mark
  • the quality of the defendants products
  • sophistication of the relevant confusion

    The factors are to be balanced: no one factor is determinative.
There are 492 listings for “BAM” on the Patent and Trademark database. Why you coming after little ole me? You’re Goliath and I’m David. I will not be intimidated. And, again, my application has already been approved. I don’t have to withdraw my trademark because you send me an email beckoning me do so. How prejudiced and privileged of you to ask, but sorry, I don’t take requests. You have the burden of proof. You also have to convince three federal judges to substantiate your claim of confusion.
The ball’s in your court… #mfcomn
-Nicholas Payton aka The Creator of #BAM