Paul Jackson, Jr.

Never Alone: Duets

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As one of the top studio guitarists in the pop, soul and jazz genres, it's probably a rare day that finds Paul Jackson, Jr. noodling by himself. Reflective of his expertise and popularity is Never Alone, a snazzy party platter loaded with early evening jam sessions, seductive midnight confessions and even cooler breakdowns for after the last guest leaves. Jackson's concept is to at the very least duet with one of his all-star pals, from Earl Klugh to Harvey Mason, but the real fun here comes when he struts his rock instincts and brings to the stage Joe Sample, Wilton Felder and Gerald Albright ("knighttime") and, closing the disc, George Duke, Kevin Toney, Sheila E. and some amazing drum fills by Alphonse Mouzon. Also going a long way in the high concept department is the cleverly titled "Wind Beneath My Strings," which features Jackson playing atop no less than the harmonic impulses of Tom Scott, Najee and Albright. Between those turbo feasts come some easier appetizers, ranging from smooth classic covers ("Soulful Strut" sums up the general vibe, but Peaches & Herb and Curtis Mayfield also get their due ) to reflective acoustic and electric originals. Despite the busy nature of the arrangements, Jackson's many moods stay at the forefront. So at least we know who to thank for inviting us to sway along.

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