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Thursday October 5, 2000

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Trumpeteer Payton celebrates the music of Louis Armstrong

Headline Photo

By Phil Leckman

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Grammy-winning artist returns to Centennial to rediscover the classics of jazz

Jazz trumpeteer Louis Armstrong may be best known to today's audience as the gravelly voice behind standards like "Hello Dolly" and "What a Wonderful World," but his legacy as a performer extends far beyond these familiar melodies.

UA audiences will have an opportunity to experience Armstrong's music Saturday when UApresents welcomes trumpeteer Nicholas Payton to Centennial Hall as part of the Louis Armstrong Centennial Celebration.

The concert, a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Armstrong's birth, will highlight both Armstrong standards and numbers from his catalogue that people may not have heard, said UApresents executive director Ken Foster.

The 27-year old Payton - a highlight of last year's Newport Jazz Millennium Celebration - is one of a growing number of talented young African-American musicians who are rediscovering and reclaiming jazz's classics.

"They (these musicians) are demonstrating how jazz's heritage speaks to them, as 20th century young people," Foster said. "These performers are dipped in the history of jazz."

Payton, a former bandmate of Wynton Marsalis, is still at an early stage in his career, but he is already garnering recognition. He picked up a Grammy this year for "Best Solo Jazz Performance" and has received praise for his tone, technique and lyricism. With this year's Armstrong Celebration, Payton and an all-star big band will pay tribute to one of jazz's most influential figures.

Armstrong, who died in 1971, was jazz's "best and biggest messenger," said University of Arizona assistant music professor Ed Reid, who will lead a UApresents Arts Encounter discussion on Armstrong's life, character and legacy before the performance.

Armstrong was an unconventional superstar, Reid said, calling the musician "quite a character." Known as "Satchmo," Armstrong was a towering figure who could be considered the founder of modern American jazz, Reid added.

"Even though he didn't invent it, he was the big showman for it," Reid said. "He spread the word."

By celebrating Armstrong's legacy, Payton's performance will both honor jazz's roots and demonstrate its continued meaning to audiences around the world.

"Jazz is America's classical music, and needs to be presented and played that way," Foster said. "Whether you're white or black, this is America's musical heritage."

The performance will take place Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $22 -$34, with discounts of up to 50% available for UA students with ID. The pre-performance discussion will be held 45 minutes before the show in Room 102 of the Center for English as a Second Language building.