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Jackiem Joyner — Lil Man Soul

The title of sax sensation Jackiem Joyner’s latest release, Lil Man Soul, suggests that the relatively new saxophonist has “graduated” or matured from his early musical infancy to what he represents here on this latest effort. That couldn’t be more correct, although, in my opinion, his growth began the moment he blew—no, caressed-the first note of his debut album, Babysoul. Here is an artist who is simply destined to be one of the finest in the business. The fact that the power horn duo, Richard Elliot and Rick Braun, heard and signed this young talent to their label practically as soon as he was visible—and the fact that fantastic and iconic keyboardist Keiko Matsui recruited this talent to tour with her as her chief saxman- speak volumes about the capabilities of Joyner. This release just adds further testimony to those capabilities.

Having briefly met the Virginia-born Joyner once when he appeared at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, VA, I was immediately taken by his quiet sense of humility. Extraordinary talent coupled with a humble nature. Is that not one of the most attractive combinations smooth jazzers can hope to encounter? It certainly is for me.

Lil Man Soul is loaded with all sorts of melodic treasures that will appeal to all sorts of smooth jazz ears. Speaking from experience, there are tunes that you will have the most difficult time getting out of your head because of the sweet melodies and hypnotic hooks. Joyner has already proven himself to be one of the masters of decent memorable hooks (a key attractant for this reviewer). A few of my favs here include the sweet “Where’s The Love Gone?,” the infectious title track, the soothingly soulful “Let Me Love You,” and probably my fav of all, the mid-tempo, tantalizing, and hook-rich “I’m Waiting For You.” That’s one of the tune I can’t seem to get out of my head. Mesmerizing and oh-so-smooth. Of course, there are others that compete heavily for the “my fav” spot, like another sweet and soulful “get your honey in the mood” cut, “Say I Do.” Yes, it’s mandatory that you shut out the world on this one.

I think that one of the essential keys to knowing whether or not an artist “gets it” with respect to what listeners want is the ability to follow up a project with one of equal or better quality. With Lil Man Soul, Joyner clearly shows that he “gets it” in a big way. — Ronald Jackson