‘Church Boy’ is Virginia saxophonist Jackiem Joyner’s fourth solo album and as the record’s title implies the 11 tracker sees him return to his Gospel roots. ‘Church Boy’, though, isn’t your conventional Gospel album. Sonically, I guess you’d pigeon-hole the album as smooth jazz but Joyner believes that Gospel isn’t a specific style. He sees it as a musical expression (in any genre) of love and adoration to “an amazing God” so all the tunes here attempt to deliver a message and/or to imbue some level of spirituality – something that’s important to the sax man; he sees that as part of his ministry.
The most overt Gospel number on the set is Joyner’s version of the traditional hymn ‘Jesus Loves Me’ though he also dips into the songbooks of Gospel stalwarts like Kirk Franklin, Toby Mac, Israel Houghton, Tye Tribbett and Yolanda Adams. To help him deliver he calls on the services of two similarly inclined smooth jazz men –Kirk Whalum and Jonathan Butler. Whalum’s alto sax adds extra sparkle to Joyner’s tenor on the Franklin tune, ‘I Smile’ while Butler’s guitar brings delicate shadings to ‘Bless The Lord’. Maybe the most interesting cover, though, is a version of Justin Bieber’s ‘Pray’ – certainly Joyner’s seen a depth to the song that has probably eluded the idol’s hordes of fans. The least obvious Gospel tune is ‘Sunday Jam’ – self-penned, it’s a classic smooth jazz cut which will please the genre’s fans and do little for the “anti” brigade. Indeed the “smoothies” will find lots to like here even if they don’t “get” the religious element.