Urban jazz saxophonist Jackiem Joyner scored a multitude of instrumental radio hits from his first three solid recordings, but his album titles always implied a search for his true identity as an artist. First there was Babysoul, then his nickname Lil’ Man Soul, and then his self-titled third set. With his fourth and most dynamic and muscular collection, Joyner “comes home” and admits to being what he always was at heart — an unapologetic Church Boy, raised to love God and express that through praise and gospel music.
While the scorching intensity of some tracks, the emotional maturity of others, and the overall flow of joy and spontaneity is all Joyner‘s (and always what he was capable of as an artist), he wisely seeks the blessings and musical contributions of his genre’s two musical apostles, fellow saxman Kirk Whalum and guitarist Jonathan Butler.
Joyner and Whalum create a playful duality and conversation on Kirk Franklin‘s spirited, funk-driven clapalong, while Butler adds his snappy acoustic charms to the high-octane, electric guitar-charged soaring rocker “Bless the Lord (Son of Man),” a Tye Tribbett classic. Joyner finds a unique way of mixing renowned spirituals (a dreamy closing take on “Jesus Loves Me”) with contemporary Christian hits (a hypno-funky spin on Franklin‘s “Hosanna,” a soaring and expectation-filled romp through TobyMac‘s “City on Our Knees”), and mainstream pop tunes with a spiritual lilt (Justin Bieber‘s “Pray”).
While Joyner saves the best for first with the throbbing energy of Israel Houghton‘s “You Are Good,” he’s also got some original magic up his sleeve later, with tunes like the pocket groove ballad “Free Fallin'” and “Sunday Jam,” which opens with a rich improvisation before settling into a reflective, happy-smooth midtempo flow. Like the prodigal son, Joyner wandered off his true musical path, and though he found some riches along the way, it’s a blessing to all that he found his way back home