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January/February 2009

Paul Jackson Jr.
Lay It Back
Branch

Poor Paul Jackson Jr. He may be the most famous face in the smooth jazz scene that no one’s heard before. He’s the guitarist who gets plenty of face time on American Idol, sometimes sharing the spotlight with soon-to-be-famous warblers. But that’s the way it is when you’ve been a first-call session player who has jammed with all the smooth heavyweights, not to mention with Whitney Houston and with Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones on one of the most famous and best-selling albums of all time, Thriller.

Don’t feel too sorry for Jackson though. All of his TV gigs pay well, and he still gets to throw in a solo project every few years that’s typically embraced by smooth jazz radio, where he has a huge fan base. On his latest, which features bigwig studio cats like bassist Alex Al, drummer Teddy Campbell and pianist Herman Jackson, Jackson throws in the obligatory covers—Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing” and the Commodores’ “Easy”—but the real meat comes with a generous selection of 12 originals, with Jackson’s electric, easy-gliding guitar singing along. They include “2 For 10,000” with guest pianist Bobby Lyle, the playful “Lucy the Cat,” the real blues of “Fourteen ’Til” and the Top 40 stylings of “Hit It.”

Originally published in January/February 2009
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