Jackiem Joyner - Evolve

Jackiem Joyner
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Jackiem Joyner’s Evolve represents somewhat of a return to the genre of instrumental music that brought him commercial and critical success. Listeners may decide that theme distinguishes Evolve from Joyner’s 2012 Church Boy. The previous project took the multi-instrumentalist and saxophonist back to his church roots, just as the truth in advertising title acknowledges. Church Boy is primarily an instrumental album with some vocals and features Joyner’s original as well as reinterpretations of well-known gospel tunes.

Jackiem Joyner’s Evolve represents somewhat of a return to the genre of instrumental music that brought him commercial and critical success. Listeners may decide that theme distinguishes Evolve from Joyner’s 2012 Church Boy. The previous project took the multi-instrumentalist and saxophonist back to his church roots, just as the truth in advertising title acknowledges. Church Boy is primarily an instrumental album with some vocals and features Joyner’s original as well as reinterpretations of well-known gospel tunes.

Evolve finds Joyner returning to the formula that made him a contemporary jazz and instrumental R&B star at a young age. That involves playing secular instrumental music that contains strong elements of improvised jazz and R&B rhythms and production techniques. Joyner, who started playing with contemporary jazz and R&B artists when he was 21 and cut his first solo album at 27, is a seasoned music veteran at 34.

Evolve is Joyner’s fifth studio album, and it fuses the strong sense of rhythm that Joyner developed while serving as minister of music at his Norfolk, Va. Church along with his sense of melody and creativity on the saxophone. The record also contains a couple of collaborations that result in two of Evolve’s most memorable moments. The first is the deep groove of “Europa” that finds Joyner improvising over a funk bass line while trading riffs with his long time collaborator and keyboard player Keiko Matsui.  The second is “Big Step,” a mid-tempo funky number that features bluesy guitar riffs and a saxophone conversation between Joyner and contemporary jazz legend Gerald Albright. Joyner is clearly energized by a chance to play with one of his jazz heroes and the conversation/battle between the two brings out the best in both.

The funk element that Joyner heard throughout his time playing in church is prominent throughout Evolve in the form of some very strong bass playing. That comes through on the aptly named “Double Bass,” a track that features Tim Bailey’s bass playing and programmed bass by Joyner. Listen to the tune and try to distinguish Bailey’s bass playing from Joyner’s keyboard programmed bass.

A lot of contemporary jazz albums have a programmed sound and come off as ego projects for the musician whose name is on the cover. Evolve does not have that feel. Perhaps it’s because Joyner allowed talented artists such as Matsui, Bailey, Albright and others to display their creativity. Another factor might be that Joyner and his sidemen entered into the studio together to record tracks such as “Breathe” live. Technology allows artists to record their parts at their home studios and send that part to the producer via the Internet where the entire project comes together. The fact that “Breathe” was recorded live in a studio endows the track with an organic, old school of something you might have heard from Grover Washington or Bob James in the late 1970s or early 80s.

Jackiem Joyner’s almost unique combination of youth and experience result in not only legitimate chops as a player, but also a sense of place and of chemistry that make an album such as Evolve a keeper. It bears its maker’s sense of the contemporary beautifully combined with his understanding of history. And I will definitely vote for many happy returns to that sound.  Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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