November 08, 2011
In + Out Records
Rhythm & Blues, Adult Contemporary R&B, Electric Jazz

Album Review

Left turns don’t get much sharper than this one. Bitches features guest vocal appearances from Esperanza Spalding, N’dambi, Saunders Sermons, Cassandra Wilson, and Chinah Blac. Nicholas Payton does the rest -- not just the trumpet, but all of the instrumentation, all of the songwriting, and most of the vocals. Those who have followed Payton’s career as a jazz musician with no interest in left-field R&B of the previous several years -- including but not limited to Sa-Ra, the Foreign Exchange, Dâm-Funk, and Bugz in the Attic -- will be thrown. Like those artists, Payton was born in the ‘70s and is inspired by R&B acts that thrived during that decade and the following one. In the liner notes, Payton cites Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Michael Jackson, and he might have an affinity for those who started as jazz instrumentalists prior to crossing into R&B during the ‘70s -- Ronnie Foster, George Benson, Patrice Rushen, and Herbie Hancock, to name four of many. Bitches traces the cycle of a romantic relationship, from beginning to end, that dovetails with Payton’s broken marriage. Major points in the story line include the lively “Freesia” (a blissful duet with Spalding, who shines), the funky but furrowed “Truth or Dare” (the woman strays), the floating yet pensive “Indigo” (the man strays), “The Second Show” (the man is ready for a fresh start), the deceptively liquid “Don’t I Love You Good” (the man is somewhat embittered about the woman’s new love interest), and the gospel-tinted “Give Light, Live Life, Love” (where the man shakes off negativity and looks to the future). Throughout, Payton's voice carries an affable, conversational quality. He won’t be compared to his heroes listed above, but he certainly holds his own with his fellow vocalists here, and the lyrics and melodies are mostly top level (merely passable or goofy when not). The slower material, instrumentally reminiscent of Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes (circa “Love Beams”) and Roy Ayers Ubiquity (circa “Gotta Find a Lover”), is tasteful and solid, but the songs with chunky synthesizers and heavy drum programming, sometimes charmingly sloppy, are the real kick.
Andy Kellman, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. By My Side (Ildeth’s Blues)
  2. Freesia
  3. Shades of Hue
  4. Truth or Dare
  5. Togetherness Foreverness
  6. Indigo
  7. You Are the Spark
  8. The Second Show (Adam’s Plea)
  9. Flip the Script
  10. Love and Faith
  11. Don’t I Love You Good
  12. iStole your iPhone
  13. You Take Me Places I’ve Never Been Before
  14. Give Light, Live Life, Love
  15. Bitches
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