On New Live Release ‘Watch the Sun,’ Pianist and Songwriter PJ Morton Continues to Evolve

PJ Morton's 'Watch the Sun' is likely to make you you're likely to waive your hand in the air ready to say “Amen.” | Tyler Roi, courtesy of the artist (cropped)

Evolution is the word I would use to describe PJ Morton’s career.

Morton’s latest, Watch the Sun Live: The Mansion Sessions is simply masterful, and Morton expertly finds his rhythm in the live performance (FYI: his live band features Jacksonville native and Douglas Anderson alum TJ Norris on trombone). Morton excels as the remix king of his own music, in my opinion, and knows the right guest artists to invite on stage to create a soul stirring performance of his repertoire. 

I was first introduced to Morton’s music during my college years. A voice that blends Stevie Wonder and Charlie Wilson, yet with a spiritual undertone that put me in the pews of the Baptist Church, he can move you from reminiscing about a love you lost to a love you are too shy to admit to; and the love of God that centers you in the midst of it all. 

In 2005, a few years after he graduated from Morehouse College, Morton’s debut album Emotions had just hit the streets, and all of the jazz, neo soul and gospel musicians in my circle were literally losing their minds at the musical brilliance of Morton’s project. It sounded like some kid who listened to and studied Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and then fused it with his gospel upbringing. PJ’s father is the legendary Bishop Paul S. Morton, who is a Baptist pastor with churches in Atlanta and New Orleans; and I am told he was the organist for his church growing up and is a quintessential “PK” (preacher’s kid). 

Subsequently Morton kept developing his sound, band, and overall musical concept and it was through his 8th studio released album The Gospel According to PJ that he finally won a Grammy Award. He’s also been the keyboardist for the famed rock group Maroon 5 since 2012.

As a child of the Black Pentecostal church, myself, I understand Morton’s musical aesthetic because Watch the Sun feels like a programmed church service, which is normally broken up into several sections and concludes with a sermon and benediction. By the end of the track fittingly called “Benediction,” you’re likely to have your hand in the air, ready to say “Amen.”

Morton’s albums make you feel good and give you something to hold onto. Case and point, my favorite take away from Watch the Sun is Morton’s remix of the Lauryn Hill classic “The Sweetest Thing.” Morton takes one of the most popular anthems of the late-’90s and adds a Fela Kuti Afrobeat vibe. I can’t get enough of it.

Watch the Sun is an incredible project, and an incredible metaphor for Morton’s meteoric rise in music. 

More New Music

You can hear new tracks from PJ Morton, and music from local, regional, national and international artists on our music discovery station The Independent 89.9 HD4. And you can follow our Fresh Squeeze playlist on Spotify to stream all the best new music, updated every month.

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