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Paul Jackson Jr.

Paul Jackson, Jr.

“My original goal was to be the No. 1 studio musician in the world,” says the Los Angeles-based guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. “But I realized it was an unattainable, meaningless goal. I don’t think I ever became number one but I think I’ve been number two or number three for a very long time.”

You can excuse him for boasting. Just check out just a few of his credits: Madonna, Celine Dion, Ella Fitzgerald, Yolanda Adams, Brian McKnight, Quincy Jones, Bobby Brown, Barbara Streisand, Elton John. He also had a high-profile presence on some of Whitney Houston’s biggest tours and jammed recently with the Backstreet Boys on MTV’s Total Request Live.

Pick up any smooth-jazz record today and there’s a good chance you’ll see Jackson’s name as well. He calls himself “the smooth jazz saxophonist’s guitar player,” and is regularly featured on works by Richard Elliot, Boney James, Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright and Everette Harp.

But Jackson now wants to concentrate on his solo work. His newest CD, The Power of the String (Blue Note), is his first since Never Alone/Duets more than five years ago. That album put Jackson alongside some heavy hitters, including Earl Klugh and ex-Crusaders Joe Sample and Wilton Felder. “I was very happy with it,” Jackson says. “It was great conceptually, but it just didn’t work commercially.”

The Power of the String puts Jackson where he shines-out front-with his melodic guitar lines gliding over easygoing, soulful and upbeat tunes. “I grew up with Grover Washington Jr., Ronnie Laws, The Crusaders, George Howard, Return to Forever and Earl Klugh. That’s what I cut my teeth on, and I always thought of it as urban jazz. So I would call my music inner-city smooth jazz.”

Jackson says the title of the new CD sprung from an unlikely source. “Two years ago I took my daughter and some of her little friends to see the Spice Girls. I’m seeing this sea of adolescent girls, and every five minutes the Spice Girls would scream, ‘Girl Power!’ On the way home, I thought, hmm, power, what kind of power do I deal with? The power of the string. I put the title in my back pocket and when the CD came out I had it.”

Originally Published