Updated: Aug 13th, 2009 - 16:39:44
It’s been nearly six years since Paul Jackson Jr. scored a #1 single at contemporary jazz radio with his version of the Motown classic, “It’s A Shame.” Since then you’ve seen him deploy his chameleon-like “guitarisma” on American Idol each week and on other national television shows, including the Grammy Awards and the NAACP Image Awards.
He’s one of the most recorded guitarists who has literally played on more than a thousand albums for a library list of legends including the best-selling album of all-time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Jackson Jr. is finally reassuming center stage armed with his seventh solo album, Lay It Back, which will be released March 17th on the newly formed Branch Records, Inc. The title cut, a bumpin’ bottom-end R&B groove in an edgy futuristic setting from which Jackson Jr. dispenses cool jazz riffs, was sent to radio with a February 16th add date although it’s already amongst the most added singles on the Radio & Records chart.
While diversity is the name of the game in his role as a first-call session guitarist, when it comes to his own recordings Jackson Jr. immerses himself fully in urban-flavored contemporary jazz. His warm organic guitar sound and passionate style of play are inspired whether the setting on Lay It Back is R&B, jazz, pop or blues.
Jackson Jr. produced or co-produced the fourteen songs that comprise the album for which he wrote or co-penned ten selections. On the tracks he didn’t produce alone, he shared the duties with Jeff Lorber, Rex Rideout, Jeff Carruthers, Cornelius Mims and Dave Delhomme. Amongst the talented musicians contributing to the tracks were Jackson Jr.’s mentor Patrice Rushen (piano), keyboardist Bobby Lyle, bassist Alex Al, vocalist James Reese, Ray Brown (Earth, Wind & Fire horns) and The Rickey Minor Band, the latter of which Jackson Jr. performs with on American Idol, award shows and at various special events. Some of the tracks were recorded with Jackson Jr.’s funky band of gifted session players, which fostered a live sound. Throughout the disc, Jackson Jr. alternates between leading with an electric or an acoustic guitar. Heat was added to the tracks by utilizing more horn section parts than he’s used in the past. A pair of Lorber collaborations – “The Workout” and “Lucy The Cat” – are aggressive funk jams. “To Be Like Him” is a gorgeous heartfelt ballad while “Bay Shore Drive” is an inviting excursion through familiar territory. Another standout is the poignant “Ballad For Uncle Ronnie,” which is dedicated to Luther Vandross.
Jackson Jr. takes listeners back to his formative years with a couple of faithful covers, Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” and Lionel Richie’s “Easy (Like Sunday Morning).”
“Lay It Back is the culmination of a year-and-a-half of serious work. I think it’s the next level from Still Small Voice (Jackson Jr.’s last album). I wanted to build on that foundation yet write better songs, play better and musically take it to the next level,” explained Jackson Jr. “Another thing that I consciously did while recording this album was attempt to really make people feel something with my music. I hope the music resonates with listeners on a deeper level.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Jackson Jr. started playing the guitar at age 11 and decided to become a professional at 15 when he first recorded. In addition to the mentorship he received from his neighbor, Rushen, Jackson Jr. majored in music at USC. Aside from Wes Montgomery, many of his influences – George Benson, Earl Klugh, Lee Ritenour and Ray Parker Jr. – became mentors and encouraged him in his chosen career path. Known for the meticulous fretwork which he delivers with intensity and precision, Jackson Jr. has played on platinum- and gold-selling albums that have sold over 90 million copies. His extraordinary discography includes recording with Michael Jackson, Vandross, Quincy Jones, Steely Dan, Sir Elton John, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Madonna, Rod Stewart, Barbara Streisand, Queen Latifah, Yolanda Adams, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Sergio Mendes, Smokey Robinson, Anita Baker, Barry Manilow, Bette Midler, Bobby Brown, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Rogers, Teddy Pendergrass, The Temptations, Julio Iglesias, Luis Miguel, Donna Summer, The Pointer Sisters, Chicago, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Tom Scott, Will Downing, Richard Elliot, Dave Koz, David Benoit, Boney James, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum and Brian Culbertson.
In addition to American Idol, Jackson Jr. can be seen performing on America’s Got Talent and Don’t Forget The Lyrics. He composed the theme song for the NAACP Image Awards and has played on more than a dozen movie and television soundtracks including Undercover Brother, for which he co-wrote the theme song, and The Martin Lawrence Show, on which he served as musical director. With six albums previously released by Atlantic Records and Blue Note Records, Jackson Jr. is excited about refocusing on his solo career with the launch of Lay It Back on his family-run record label. Additional information is available at www.pauljacksonjr.com.
The songs contained on Jackson Jr.’s Lay It Back are:
“Lucy The Cat”
“Lay It Back”
"Bay Shore Drive”
“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing”
“To Be Like Him”
“Easy (Like Sunday Morning)”
“2 For 10,000”
“Ballad For Uncle Ronnie”
“Can This Be Real?”
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