Vermont Jazz Center Presents: Nicholas Payton + Cyrille Aimée Duo

Grammy Winner Nicholas Payton and Sarah Vaughan Vocal Competition Winner Cyrille Aimée to Perform a Duo Concert at the VJC

 The Vermont Jazz Center welcomes Grammy-winning trumpeter Nicholas Payton and vocalist Cyrille Aimée to the stage in a duo performance on Saturday, October 12th. Payton will perform on trumpet, acoustic bass, piano and Fender Rhodes; Aimée will sing and, at times, use a looping device to layer her vocals. Individually Payton and Aimée are two of the most creative musicians on the scene today, but as a duo their collaboration synergistically expands the perimeters of improvisational music. They spontaneously interact or push each other, sometimes delving into material from the American Songbook, other times exploring new sonic textures or hypnotic grooves.

This concert will present two artists whose individual work demonstrates a love for the lineage of tradition and a deep respect for the masters who paved the way. This collaboration boldly achieves what Miles Davis championed his whole career: that music evolves with the times and, that in order to be innovators, it is incumbent upon us to explore unchartered territories.

A recent article in Downbeat Magazine glowingly reviewed one of the duo’s first shows. It took place in a funky New Orleans club as part of a series organized by Aimée in her recently adopted hometown.  According to the review, what really stood out was how they creatively combined standards such as “After You’ve Gone,” All of Me” and “How Deep is the Ocean” with the use of a vocal looper, funk grooves, scat singing and a very intentional emphasis on improvisation.  In that article, Payton praised Aimée saying “Cyrille is a complete musician. What she does with the looper is entertaining, sure, but the fact that she hears all the parts orchestrally is pretty brilliant. She’s also a true improviser which is rare these days. Her processing speed is fast, so when she hears something, she can jump on it and take it to another level instantaneously.”

The fact that both musicians call New Orleans home says a lot about this project: it reflects the comfort they feel while improvising and an ease in embracing both traditional and forward-seeking visions. New Orleans is defined by musical history and cultural riches.  It is home to the legends of Buddy Bolden and Storyville, community brass bands and second-line parades. One experiences the reverence of the traditions presaged by the music’s forebears: Joe Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, James Booker, Professor Longhair, and Baby Dodds. To this day the musical language, attitude and repertoire of these masters serves as a jumping off point for young musicians; the sounds of these earlier eras are still featured fare in numerous restaurants and bars. But New Orleans is also the home-base of forward thinking leaders and teachers like Nicholas Payton, Donald Harrison, Christian Scott, Trombone Shorty, the Marsalis family as well as innumerable past greats like Henry Butler, Dr. John, Idris Muhammad, Allen Toussaint and Ed Blackwell who crafted new ways of building off of the tradition and creating meaningful art that is germane in today’s turbulent times.

Aimée, interviewed for the Downbeat article referred to above, reflected on the amped up energy she felt after moving from NYC to New Orleans. “Here in New Orleans, music is fun. And in New York, it’s more about the mind over the heart – the drive to be the best. You have a tendency to forget that music is fun. Moving here helped me find my gypsy energy again…Music is such a vital…necessary part of life in New Orleans – like eating and sleeping. There’s a deep emotion in the music that comes through very strong. And it’s the same feeling I had when I was singing with the gypsies at the Django Festival in France.” Aimée grew up in the village of Samois-sur-Seine, the site of the Django Festival. She said “Bands of gypsies would come from all over and camp out for the week of the festival. I used to sneak out at night and go to hear the gypsies play their music, and that’s when I first fell in love with jazz. There was a real feeling for freedom in the music and the improvisation of the musicians. That was when I knew that I wanted to be jazz singer.”

Conveying freedom in music comes naturally to Aimée and Payton. Listeners can hear it in their duo performances on Instagram when they take “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You,” and morph it from a clever theater piece into a serious soulful groove, unifying a noisy crowd into a focused, participatory audience. In one of Payton’s numerous essays on his website, he writes about opportunities for openness and how they are essential to creative wellbeing: “I think it’s time we hold space for artists to be free. Art serves as a bridge between this world and the ancestral one. In this illusory world, it’s the only thing that makes us whole. It’s what saves us when education, policing, government, and religion fails.” In another essay describing his recordings with Butcher Brown, he states “the idea is that we leave space…to find yourself in the music. In the New Orleans tradition, collective interplay is key.”

Circling back we find that freedom and mastery are what defines this duo project. Both Payton and Aimée get it: the three elements at play are 1) the mastery of one’s instrument (or voice) and repertoire, 2) the patience to leave space and let the music evolve and 3) the willingness to let the collective interplay service the music rather than the individual. Once these elements are in place and embraced, the table is set and it is time to dig in. These conditions are met by Payton and Aimée – what makes their efforts magical is their unified willingness to commit to the project, their personal “chemistry” that enhances their desire to create together, and an agreement to spend time cultivating and discovering their collaborative language.

New Orleans musician Nicholas Payton is one of the leading trumpeters of our time. His first major tour and recording opportunity was with Elvin Jones’ Jazz Machine (three albums), he has appeared on recordings with Common, Stanton Moore, Dr. John, Esperanza Spalding, Roy Hargrove, George Duke, Ellis Marsalis, Christian McBride, Allen Toussaint, Joshua Redman, Joanne Brackeen, Eldar, Cassandra Wilson, Trey Anastasio, the Headhunters, Marcus Roberts, Pete Yellin, Chick Corea, Ray Brown, Jimmy Smith and many others. He received a Grammy award for an album he recorded with elder statesman Doc Cheatham. Payton now has 15 albums out as a leader. He is a provocative thinker who clarifies that “I don’t play jazz…I play Postmodern New Orleans Music.”

Cyrille Aimée has eight albums as a leader including her most recent album featuring the music of Stephen Sondheim (Move On, A Sondheim Adventure, Mack Avenue Jazz) which Sondheim called “terrific, not just you but the band and the arrangements. Congratulations.” During the annual gathering of the Django Reinhardt Festival in her hometown in France, Cyrille Aimée would take part in the fireside sing-alongs that exposed her to the joys of gypsy music, and their spontaneous, nomadic and music-filled way of life. Traveling to New York for school she developed her skills and locked in her passion for creative improvising and material from the Great American Songbook. In 2017 she moved to New Orleans. Aimée is winner of the Montreux Jazz Vocal competition, the Sarah Vaughan International Vocal competition and was a finalist in the Thelonious Monk competition.

The Vermont Jazz Center is honored to present these two masterful, creative artists in a duo setting on Saturday October 12th at 8:00 PM. This concert will likely sell out, so be sure to purchase tickets in advance. The VJC is grateful for this concert’s sponsors: David Salzberg and Elissa Barr. The VJC is also thankful for the ongoing support of Holiday Inn Express Suites of Brattleboro. VJC publicity is underwritten by the Brattleboro Reformer, WVPR, WVEW and WFCR. Thanks also to additional assistance from Edward Jones Investments and Mocha Joes Roasting Company.

Tickets for the Nicholas Payton/Cyrille Aimée Duo at the Vermont Jazz Center are $20+ general admission, $15 for students with I.D. (contact VJC about educational discounts); available online at, by email at, and at In the Moment in Brattleboro.  Tickets can also be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line at 802-254-9088, ext. 1. Handicapped access is available by calling the VJC at 802 254 9088.


Collaborative Video:



Nicholas Payton Videos:

Ninety Miles project:


In Concert – Burghausen:


Cyrille Aimée Videos:


Gypsy Music Concert:

With looper:


Press Release – Please give author’s credit to Eugene Uman, Vermont Jazz Center, 802 254 9088,


Short Summary

Who: Nicholas Payton/Cyrille Aimée Duo – Nicholas Payton: trumpet, piano, Fender Rhodes and bass; Cyrille Aimée: vocals and looper

What: Standards, originals, grooves and improvisations

When: Saturday, October 12th, 2019 at 8:00 PM

Where: The Vermont Jazz Center, 72 Cotton Mill Hill, #222, Brattleboro, VT 05301

Tickets available:  online at, by email at, by phone 802 254 9088 x1, in person at In The Moment, 143 Main St., Brattleboro, VT.

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