On his latest release, Paul, the multi-talented PJ Morton has something to say, be it a message of hope or of political significance. In some ways, that inclination speaks of his gospel roots as the son of the Bishop Paul S. Morton. PJ’s “sermonizing” is set to soul and contemporary rhythm and blues grooves on which the outstanding keyboardist and vocalist often handles all or most of the instrumentation.
A few examples of Morton’s compassionate lyrics include the gentle, under three-minute sweetness of “Kid Again” and the funky “Buy Back the Block” that includes trumpeter Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown, saxophonist Brad Walker and trombonist Jon Ram. Morton really digs into this one vocally and hits all those essential high notes.
As a hip Grammy-award winner and a member of the renowned band Maroon 5, Morton is also essentially old school. On an album highlight, “Built for Love,” his duet vocalist Jazmine Sullivan comes right out of Motown’s tradition of great of pairings like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Here, PJ’s fine acoustic piano work is backed by a full band on yet another tune that comes in around that three-minute mark that was standard during the 45 rpm era.
Morton is also a romantic and shows that side on the pleading, “Don’t Break My Heart,” a contemporary rhythm and blues dance number. The repeated lyrics, “I just can’t take it,” add to the emotional and musical build up that climaxes in a cacophony of sound.
On Paul, a first name he shares with his father, PJ Morton brings on the soulfulness that is the essence of his style.