October 19, 2012. They may have never played together before but, when contemporary jazz icon Paul Brown took the stage with Jackiem Joyner at San Diego’s Anthology, these sublimely talented individuals delivered what quite simply was the best live performance I have witnessed this year. They were there in support of local radio personality Kelly Cole who, with her weekly ‘Lites Out’ show at KPRi 102.1, is doing her best to re-engage a smooth jazz audience that through the demise of KIFM has become entirely disenfranchised. The good news is that with the fabulous pairing of Brown and Joyner checking almost every box imaginable this ‘Listener Appreciation’ event went some way to doing just that.
Of course with five highly acclaimed solo albums now to his name its easy to forget that before he became a chart topping smooth jazz guitarist he was (and remains) one of the most influential producers of the genre. Equally, with ‘Church Boy’, Joyner is also set to release his fifth solo CD and understandably it was around this collection that much of the Anthology set was built. The Yolander Adams tune ‘Still I Rise’, ‘I Smile’ and most notably ‘This Is My Song’ (which included a wonderful contribution from Brown) were all featured while the gospel theme remained on the agenda for a delightful rendition of the staple ‘Amazing Grace’.
However this was far from being an evening of sacredly inclined music and with a backing band of Ricky Lawson on drums, everyone favourite bass player Darryl Williams and rising star Mario Basci on keys the appreciative audience were treated to a night of contemporary jazz that was of the highest order. A case in point was the band’s take on Joyner’s ‘Take Me There’ from his 2009 CD ‘Lil’ Man Soul’ while when Brown dipped into his back catalogue for the easy paced ‘Sugar Fish’ the result was just as good.
Brown also revisited his 2009 collaboration with Marc Antoine, ‘Foreign Xchange’, first for ‘Brother Earl’ and again with ‘Sweetness’ and although the band delivered an expansive version of ‘People Make The World Go Round’ that was constructed around excellent solos from Lawson and Williams, perhaps the highlight of the show was Brown’s ‘24/7’ from his debut recording ‘Up Front’.
Not only did it bring the night to a groove drenched conclusion but also confirmed that if smooth jazz is to endure as an art form it is most likely to do so within a live setting. With Anthology continuing to book some of the best talent the genre has to offer then maybe the future of smooth jazz in San Diego may not be so bleak after all.