Updated: Jan 24, 2022
Jackiem Joyner ( Photo by Alvin Kim)
His first single "I'm Waiting For You" was an instant #1 hit on the Billboards Contemporary Jazz Chart and it held that #1 spot for 12 continues weeks. Not only did, "Waiting for you receive the enormous success of anchoring in the top spot, but the song was also nominated for Song of the Year in 2010 at the American Smooth Jazz Awards. If that wasn't enough excitement, , his single, Take Me There,” that was released in early 2010, skyrocketed to the #1 spot on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart. It remained in that spot for a whopping 6 weeks uninterrupted!
I had the honor of interviewing this multi-talented Musical genius and even hearing him play and his amazing band play live at Spaghettini in Seal Beach, California. his band members included, Bill Steinway, Kayta Matsuno, Jermone Randall and Raymond Johnson. Let me tell you, due to Covid 19, I don't come out the house much these days, but this performance was so worth it! Not only was his performance electrifying, but he was approachable, warm and friendly. I'm my option, this makes him an all-around superstar! We all were blessed with the opportunity to hear many of his hit singles like, "Little Man Soul".
He opened with " Road to soul" which was in my opinion, a masterpiece. We also had a sneak preview listen to an Ep he recorded while in quarantine, "Journey of Passion." He played it for the first time. What a treat! Then what appeared to me so effortlessly he belted out, "When you Smile"! What a crowd pleaser it was indeed. And, If that wasn't enough excitement, he played a few of my favorites, "Touch", and another first-time playing experience, "Beautiful seduction" from that same album. He topped us off with a sweet, beautiful song written for his daughter, "Dance with me". The night was perfect, and the weather was beautiful so, that defiantly added to the "Jackiem Joyner" perfect evening experience. Everyone in his band perfectly complimented this sax genius! Prior to his concert, I spoke with the multi-talented Jackiem Joyner about his musical journey, here's what he shared with me.
Tell me a little bit about your background. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? My introduction to music came through my church at age 11. I remember being forced and literally dragged to church by my mother. On another note, I was excited and intrigued by the band and choir. I say that because, it was something I had not seen before as a young child. So, I think that was the spark that ignited my initial passion for music. Between age 11 and 14, I played drums and sang in the church choir. Because my passion was geared towards those two aspects of music, I thought I was going to be a professional drummer. But little did I know, at age 14, while in high school, I would get my first experience playing saxophone. So, I'm now a freshman in high school and super excited about getting involved with music. I have a conversation with my music teacher about my experience in playing the drums at church, but because there were already too many drummers, my teacher informed me that if I wanted to be in the high school band, I would have to choose another instrument. The good thing was, instead of him pushing me into playing a specific instrument, he took me to that humongous band closet (“that’s what we called it”) where there was a ton of dusty instruments and let me decide for myself. In that closet held a variety of instruments. One of the instruments that I laid my eyes on was the tuba, but I decided against it because it was too big! I couldn't imagine playing anything that big! I thought the flute was for girls. The trumpet didn't interest me either because it only has three buttons. To me, three buttons meant 3 notes. Then, there was this shiny thing with all of these buttons on it! I must have thought it had 1000 buttons because it looked really intimidating yet intriguing at the same time.
I looked at my teacher, pointed at it, and asked my teacher to teach me how to play that instrument. He said to me “that instrument young Sir, is a saxophone. He picked it up, and placed it in my hands, he showed me how blow on it and how to play a couple of notes.
Jackiem Joyner ( Photo By Gina Sedman)
I remember playing so loud that the science teacher heard me upstairs. The funny thing was that there was a trumpet player who started on the same day as me, and he was also playing insanely loud. We started on the same day. Well, my teacher gave me the saxophone along with a jazz tape to take home and listen. It was interesting hearing the Jazz on the tape. I didn't really know who they were at the time, but I later learned that on the tape was Grover Washington junior, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and many other greats that I have now come to respect. So, that's my story of how I started playing sax. I totally forgot about the drums.
I started to excel quite rapidly in high school. I graduated from Fowler High School in Syracuse, New York, but I was born in Norfolk, Virginia. So, my music teacher thought I was like, you know, one of the one of the kids that that would do well in music. So, he had me sign up for the NAACP, ACTSO competition. And I won the local competitions there and competed
Fowler High School in Syracuse, New York
in the state competitions, and various competitions. My music teacher took me on gigs. You know, so I was I was practicing, you know, the stuff on the tape and started to find out about other artists like “Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright, George Duke, Marcus Miller”, and many others. And the next thing you know, I was on this whole funk, soul, contemporary, jazz thing. I created a band in school called "INKREESE". The band consisted of myself, my two brothers and my two friends. We played all of the Boys and Girls Clubs and. We were kind of a little thing.
They were putting us on some stuff, and I would play the lead part. In high school, I my vision was to take center stage as a saxophone player. Also, I write a lot of my own music. To give you a story of how I started to write, or really got excited about writing music, I went into a store called Radio Shack, and they had a keyboard in there. And on this keyboard, you could record a track, and then store it and then record another track on top of that track, and it's store it. I was totally blown away by that idea. I think I literally wrote a song in there for five hours, until they said, "hey kid, you got to get out of here." And that was my start of writing my own songs. And as you know, I’ve had two number one billboard songs that I've written in quite a few top five singles, all of them that I wrote. So, I developed this passion for writing my own music, in addition to, taking center stage as a performer. So, that’s how I became a writer.
Jackiem Joyner (Photo by Gina Sedman)
So, I went to Los Angeles, and obviously, I had to get a job. I was working at Target and Olive Garden as a cook because, I was cooking when I was in college. And, I remember, after getting fired from the "Target" warehouse, the very next day, is when I was offered a recording contract, believe it or not. It wasn't even my fault that I got terminated. I'm not sure what it was, but, either way, it was my last job. I'll never forget, it was 2006. So, one day, these two British guys are sitting across from me, (Steve Chapman) who manages Peter white, Richard Elliot, Gerald Albright, and a host of artists, I kind of targeted him and sent a demo to these guys a year earlier. I expected they give me a call, but it just so happened to be after I got fired. So, they asked me what kind of deal that I wanted, and they had a label that they started that was called "Artizen Music Group". The label was run by Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Steve Chapman and Al Evers. So, I was one of the first artists that they signed to that label, and I put out my first album, "Baby Soul".
Later on, "Artizen" got sold to a much larger label called "Mack Avenue Records," and they bought my contract. That's when I put out my second album, "Lil Man Soul", which had my two number one hits, " (The single "I'm Waiting for You" was a No.1 hit on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart. It was nominated Song of the Year in 2010 at the American Smooth Jazz Awards.
Can you tell me about your single, Take Me There? My single "Take Me There" was also a No.1 hit on the same chart”. I'm waiting for you was number one for 12 weeks, consecutive. Take me there was number one for six weeks, consecutively. It was so interesting. My manager called me when I was doing a show in Denver, and said, "congratulations", your number one! I said number #1 on what? "He said you're #1 on the Billboard! " I said what's the Billboard?" So, that was my knowledge of the music industry at that time. Now, I have eight albums out. Most of my catalogue is on "Mack Avenue.
Records" which features "Baby Soul, Little Man Soul and self-titled, "Jackie Joyner". I also put out a gospel record called " Church Boy, and "Main Street Beat." I started my own label in 2019. I decided to take the reins to my career and head on to a new direction and I put out the album "Touch". It did very well.
Peter White played on the single, "Last Dance". We're actually recorded a lot of this stuff for a Valentine's Day show that we're put together. So, that's kind of my story into the industry. I toured with, "Keiko Matsui" for more than 10 years. I was able to play with my idols. such as, "Gerald Albright", recorded on a song called "Big Step" on the "Evolve “album. That was my fourth album, I believe. "Kirk Whalum played on "Church Boy and "I smile" and Jonathan Butler also played on that album as well. So, it's been kind of a cool run.
Who are some of the other amazing artists that you have you recorded with? Oh, gosh, I would have to go and pull up my records. I would say, "Keiko Matsui, Rick Braun, Peter White, Gerald Albright", Kirk Whalum, Jonathan Butler, Najee, Paul Jackson Jr., Nick Colionne, Steve Oliver”, and a host of others.
What type of you know saxophone do you play on? Are you endorsed by any company? I endorse Yamaha saxophones. Yes, I am signed for Yamaha. So, all of my horns are custom Yamaha saxophones. There's always a difference when it comes to mouthpiece and reeds and different things like that give you different sounds. Whether it's in a studio or whether you are performing live. So, yeah, Yamaha. It’s a 82Z Soprano custom silver and 875 Alto. I play a Yamaha flute as well. I play flute too. Eventually, I did pick up the flute, despite of what I said early. What was what was the longest note that you ever? How long is the longest note that you've ever played? Well, "Kenny G" holds the record for holding the longest note. I think I did about three minutes before. I stopped doing that stuff. But yeah, he can you do like 45 minutes, which I would have just gotten bored out of my mind at that point. That's the only reason why I couldn’t go that long. But yeah, that's the longest. What makes you unique? How can differentiate your style from another Sax player? Most people have said that I'm the sole guy. I play with a lot of passion and feeling. That’s why they my first album, Baby Soul". and "Lil Man Soul". They call me the Soul Guy". Soul, passion and feeling! I play from the heart. I also love funk, bebop and R&B. My most recent album is actually a EP, but the album before that, "Touch", has a romantic grown & sexy, R&B kind of vibe. I think that’s what sets me apart from even people who are playing R&B stuff like, "Bony James”. The way that I deliver soul and R&B with the saxophone. A lot of people tend to associate that with me.
Have you ever run into any situations regarding race in your musical journey? Yeah. You know, it's it comes with the territory. I try not to focus on what's unfair, but more so on what I can do and how I can expand and find routes away from roadblocks that might be there. I set out to create my own route to success that doesn't necessarily have to go in the same direction that everyone else is going which could have several roadblocks politics, race, whatever you want to call it. I think what I've embraced is that this type of thing when it comes to race, favorites, and all of that stuff is here to stay. I don't think it's going to go anywhere. So, I think the best thing that I can do as an artist is find the find my own way create my own leverage and create my own way, you know, and show other people as well.
Jackiem Joyner ( Photo By Gina Sedman)
What is your most memorable moment in your in your music career? would probably say, when I got on the smooth jazz cruise, this was just before I put out my first album. I was no longer working a regular job and I got paid a great salary to be on there. Probably the highest salary I've ever gotten paid is as a musician. A lot of people invited me to play on stage. "Najee", who I met on the cruise invited me to come on stage with him. The funny thing was, I was just in the backstage just jamming along with the music. I wasn't expecting that these security people were going to be dragging me on the stage. "Najee" Introduced me. I was such a shy guy back then. Well, he quickly introduced me and allowed me to play on one of his songs. It was fun for me because, I competed with one of his songs when I was in high school. So, that was great! It got bigger when I went to this restaurant where everyone goes to eat on this particular cruise. The way it works is that there is an A and B group that goes to eat so it was like the B group were all the people that were at the concert that I just played. So, when I walked in there, I'm just thinking I'm going in there to get to eat and they say, you know this, this thunderous applause and the entire restaurant just continued on forever and ever, ever and ever! I was just turning red even though I'm Brown! I'll never forget that moment. It was really unexpected. It was very organic. In that moment, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and appreciation for my talent. How did you overcome your stage fright? In the first few years of performing, I was really shy. That lasted at least up until the year of 2010. I was still shy because I always wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted the sound and the band to play perfectly. I remember performing with "Keiko Matsui". My first concert with her was in Moscow. It was my first time performing in Russia, first time playing with Keiko, it was in Moscow, and I'm like black. So, Keiko Matsui performs with a lot of atmosphere type of essence. There's smoke, lights and candles. So, I'm playing a soprano saxophone to probably around 5000 people in this massive theater in Moscow. The band is on the stage, but the lights were such that the only people that you can see were Keiko Matsui on stage left and me on stage, right. So, I had to play this one note. Mind you, it was only one note, that's all! I took a breath, and I could hear the sound of my breath echo into the halls, because before I began to play that note and the pressure was really something else. Yeah, so I'll never forget that. That was my
shyness. I'll never forget that. But I played the note correctly. It was great! But I was still terribly shy.
Jackiem Joyner (Photo by Gina Sedman)
What was one of your most embarrassing moments that you wouldn't mind sharing with your fans? Oh, gosh. Let's see, jeez. I mean, I've had quite a few of those. When my saxophone wasn't working. It had a pad that must have fallen out, not sure what happened. So, I had a show, they introduced me, "welcome to the stage, Jakiem Joyner”, the band is playing and nothing. and I started playing, and then there's just nothing. I'm looking at the horn and it's just literally not working. So, I had to leave the stage and figure out what to do next. That's pretty embarrassing. Yeah. Hilarious. I can't even imagine being in that situation. I probably would have cried. (laughs) So, now, when I'm performing, I'm always obsessively checking my horn. It's crazy! I'm just making sure even though it just came from the shop.
It’s like you've developed OCD now. Yeah. Right? It's always best when you're not thinking about any of those things and only thing, you're thinking about is making music. You don't want to have to have to worry about those things. I hear this a lot from people that have been in the industry. The people who have been in the industry a lot longer than I have; they tend to just not care. Some of them would tell me years ago to stop overthinking and just have fun. Stop trying to make everything perfect because when you try to make everything perfect, it becomes less perfect. On the contrary, when you just having fun, your audience can feel it. So, I took that attitude as a performer.
From performing with other greats, and them sharing with me, this young guy, things they’ve learned about being a great performer, I really take it to heart. Who influenced you from the past and who are your current influences? Interestingly enough, "John P. Kee". He was a huge influence in the soulful style I developed that I kind of bought into my saxophone playing because, I was just listening to his music when I was playing the drums. I really loved his sound and his style. I also loved Yolonda Adams. I think some of that just kind of bled into my saxophone playing. I kind of brought the spirit of that into playing my horn. But, I really loved john Coltrane and Charlie Parker, especially Charlie Parker. I would sit in practice, obsessively every single day, to try to learn all of those solos. I was taking forever, and I was getting frustrated because, I couldn't get through some of the passages. I would say to myself, " why can't I do it! Why can I do it! I loved Charlie Parker and john Coltrane too. I loved these songs, "Giant Steps" & "Impressions".
They are really technical and have fast playing on them. Then later I began listening to a more contemporary sound. I was in high school when I heard, "Gerald Albright" on the radio playing, "My My My", and I was like, okay, let's sit this book down and see what's going over here in the soul contemporary world. Then that led me into "Kirk Whalum", Grover Washington, Jr., and a host of other artists.
From there to the piano players like, " Joe sample" to "George Duke", So, all of that influenced my playing and still does now to this day. In fact, I still listen to john Coltrane, "Kirk Whalum", George Duke, and Marcus Miller.” They've all had a huge influence on a lot of my writing. I also like to listen to film scoring. I love, "Steve Jablonsky, John Powell and Hans Zimmer. I even put together my own stuff just for fun because, I'm so fascinated with film and music and how that comes together too. So, It’s kind of a wide range of interest for me.
What, what motivates you to write? You know, what is your inspiration? Do you go to a quiet place that you go up top of the mountain by the water springs? Is it your personal life, or something that you see or what's going on in the world? What is the motivation behind your writing?
Many things motivate me to write. Sometimes it’s a conversation with someone or a certain song on a radio. Sometimes it's just curiosity to see what a certain thing might sound like on the saxophone. Inspiration definitely comes when I'm hearing music, especially new music that I haven't heard that song before. When I hear something new, and fresh, usually my creative juices start to kind of go nuts. Then there's the technical part of writing. When you want to try to write a certain song and make it a certain kind of way. But, what I found is that when a song just comes to you and you're inspired to write, that comes out so much better.