Reedman Dexter Payne has not been an easy musician to categorize. The Denver, CO-based clarinetist and alto/baritone saxophonist (who has also played harmonica, flute, and percussion on occasion) has played jazz extensively, but he has also played everything from electric blues to folk-rock to world and Latin music. Over the years, Payne's associations have ranged from acoustic country bluesman Barbecue Bob to Brazilian percussionist Thiago de Mello to the late folk-rock/blues singer Judy Roderick (who was Payne's musical partner for 16 years and, sadly, died of a heart attack in 1992 due to complications from diabetes). Payne and Roderick played together in a swing band called the Big Sky Mudflaps in the '70s, and in 1983 they formed an R&B band called Judy Roderick & the Forbears. Payne has also been heard in African pop settings.
Payne was born on July 5, 1951, in Denver, CO, where the clarinet became his first instrument. Payne went on to master the alto and baritone saxes as well, and he has been quoted as saying that he was glad he added those saxophones to his arsenal because he has found that "the opportunities for clarinet players in modern music are somewhat limited." Nonetheless, the clarinet has played a prominent role in Payne's musical history -- and whether he was embracing the clarinet or a saxophone, Payne has had a reputation for being very lyrical and melodic. The reedman has a long list of direct or indirect influences; in the jazz realm, they have ranged from clarinetists Artie Shaw, Buddy DeFranco, and Benny Goodman to tenor saxophonists Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, and the seminal Lester "The Prez" Young to alto saxophonists Paul Desmond, Benny Carter, and Johnny Hodges. Meanwhile, on baritone sax, Payne gets a lot of inspiration from Gerry Mulligan. But despite having all those jazz influences, Payne has never considered himself a full-time jazz musician; rather, he has described himself as a musician who sometimes plays jazz (including swing, bop, cool jazz, and Brazilian jazz) but is also interested in other forms of music.
Payne has said that, over the years, he became more and more interested in Latin music, especially Brazilian music; he has traveled in Latin America extensively, and it was during a visit to Brazil in 1997 that Payne first met Thiago de Mello. Payne and de Mello (who grew up in the Amazon region of Brazil but has lived in New York City since the '60s) became good friends and played together extensively in the 2000s, joining forces on the albums Inspiration (a 2003 recording that also included Brazilian guitarist Antonio Mello), Another Feeling (which was co-produced by Brazil's well-known Arnaldo DeSouteiro in 2005 and released on DeSouteiro's Rio de Janeiro-based Jazz Station label), Disk Tum Derrei (Chorando e Sambando) (which de Mello produced for his Gau label in 2006 and 2007), and Our Time to Remember. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi