Paul Jackson, Jr. – Lay It Back

Paul Jackson, Jr.
Lay It Back
Branch Records – 2008
Ray Redmond

Lay It Back is Paul Jackson Jr.’s 7th solo CD and first for the new Independent label Branch Records. The players include Patrice Rushen on piano, Bobby Lyle, Alex Al on bass, vocalists James Reese and Ray Brown and The Rickey Minor Band.To put it simply, there’s not a bad song on this CD, but some are always better than others, eh?

The Workout is classic Jackson, running up and down on his guitar as the music lilts and dances behind him, ditto for Two for Ten Thousand. Both are uptempo and seriously grooving. Hit It is a grab at fusing Jackson’s style with what he calls ‘current’, and the result is a sort of Hip-Hop / smooth jazz hybrid that works pretty well. Swing It is funky. In fact it is soooo funky it sounds like George Duke and Stanley Clarke… just like them… hmmmm…..

Jackson made his bones in the industry as a sideman, so it is no surprise that the few cover tunes on the CD are all quality work and laden with Paul’s individual sound. I particularly liked his renditiion of the Natural Four’s R&B Classic Can This Be Real. This is a good solid release from a talented and creative guitarist.

Previous releases include: Grammy nominated, I Came To Play, Out of The Shadows, and River in The Desert under the Atlantic Label. Never Alone Duets under the Pony Canyon/ Blue Note Labels, Power Of The String and Still Small Voice under the Blue Note Label. His latest project, Lay It Back is an R&B inspired smooth jazz assortment of originals and carefully selected covers.

Production of this long awaited release required the sharing of Paul’s talents and schedule with television’s “American Idol”, “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” and “America’s got Talent” , the “Grammys” and the “Icon Awards” honoring Barry Gordy. With Paul as music director, the awards featured performances by Lionel Ritchie, Herbie Hancock, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder.

Paul has been with Idol since its inception – three years providing pre-records followed by the last four years on camera. “I really enjoy working on Idol, especially the opportunity to help enhance the performance of contestants with my playing, choices of guitars, switching of guitars between songs based upon song selections and, working with them during rehearsals so that they can best utilize the music provided by the band, lead by Rickey Minor”. His frequently being asked by contestants to provide up-front on-camera accompaniment really helps them deliver their best performances. Paul uses the same approach and commitment to each project with contestants as he has done in his studio work, which earned him the reputation of being one of the worlds most recorded and requested guitarist, with this CD and his other personal projects

Continuing to be the guitarist of demand, Paul refused to just “Lay It Back”, and blame it on his busy schedule, but instead took the time to write and record incredible originals and lay down his smooth “guitarizma” on cover tracks such as Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing” and The Commodore’s “Easy” to compile this incredible new CD.

Paul’s previous releases each featured who’s-who lists of notables. Since he has contributed to the projects of the true giants of music and maintains unique camaraderie with all, Paul’s requests to have them provide their individual strengths to his projects are eagerly accepted. This CD continues the trend with contributions of Jeff Lorber, Bobby Lyle and others, and members of the Ricky Minor All-star band, heard each week on the American Idol, other television shows and specials, with Ricky himself providing his incredible bass licks. The CD production also provided an opportunity for Paul to bring in members of his own live performance band on several tracks. Each of his band members has established his/her credentials by performing with the industry’s best in their live performances.