Jazz musician Najee is known as a legend in the contemporary jazz arena. He has been nominated for two Grammy Awards in his time and his CDs have garnered frequent airplay since he debuted back in 1988.
With all these accomplishments Najee still manages to keep a sense of humility which is admirable.
He recently released his second jazz CD under the Head's Up label called "Rising Sun", a jam packed musical session that is diverse with everything from Latin-tinged music, to ballads and finger-snapping grooves - in short - just some of the best tracks you'll find around.
Very laid-back and soft-spoken, Najee revealed in a recent interview that his name means "friend of God" and added that it's his middle name but don't expect more on the name subject. Like he said with a chuckle "there are only some things that I can reveal to you my dear."
What he did reveal though is his excitement about his new CD and the chance to be touring again both locally and internationally now that the CD has hit the stores.
One look at Najee's photo on his CD cover and he does not look a day older than when he first debuted in 1988. His round, boyish face and clean cut image is still intact proving no doubt that he has aged gracefully. His music has also matured and like fine wine, it has aged to perfection.
The music on this CD has a signature underlying Najee sound in terms of consistency, yet he manages to capture a refreshing and new approach without it sounding like leftovers.
One wonders how Najee is able to pull that off without slipping into artistic redundancy. He explained that there is a technique that he follows. "I try not to get too interested in the (musical) work that I've done. So I go with the mentality of what I can do slightly different than the last (CD)."
So far this technique has worked tremendously. Najee became a household name back in 1988 when he provided the crossover bridge from R&B music to contemporary jazz for then high school students like myself back in the day.
A trained sax player and flutist, the self-confessed multi-instrumentalist has had a penchant for playing music for quite some time even before entering the business professionally.
In fact, Najee said that he was certain that he wanted to play the sax ever since he was in elementary school. "I remember there was a guest who came to my school to demonstrate the sax. I was very impressed that he could play a song that I had heard on the radio. Right then and there I knew I wanted to play".
In junior high school Najee mastered the clarinet before switching to the saxophone. And it was while performing at a gig in New York that Najee met Chaka Khan's background vocalist Meli'sa Morgan who at the time was completing her solo album and requested that Najee played on it.
The gig with Meli'sa led to an introduction to record executive Charles Huggins of Hush Entertainment who suggested that Najee record his debut album with his label.
At the time jazz music had reached an all time low but it eventually gained momentum when Najee's debut CD was released.
Najee said that his timing had everything to do with how successful he is today. "I believe (timing) is critical to any deal. When I started my first album, I didn't have a clue. I wanted to have a different angle on things and it clicked and worked".
According to Najee, the songs featured on the new CD "Rising Sun" all feature live musicians as compared to past compilation.
The CD opens with "Clarity" which is followed by the percolating rhythms of "Brazilian Affair", a track which borrows a few opening licks from Cherelle's "Everything I Miss At Home" before it deviates to a Latin-fused pathway.
Sail into the splendor and beauty that is the flute-laden "Child at Heart" and then "Come What May". You'll absolutely fall in love with the catchy and buoyant sounds that oozes ever so sweetly from "Out of a Dream" and "Still in Love".
Phil Perry lends his notable falsetto to the graceful and melodically satisfying "Romance the Night", a track that this writer has given a spin more than a few times. Such is its beauty. Najee also does an impressive version of "Moody's Mood for Love".
Besides Phil Perry, Najee has been paired with the likes of Jeffrey Osborne, Will Downing and Freddie Jackson to name a few to which he considered himself "blessed to have worked with such great artists". But he hopes that on future collaboration that he could record with Ledesi or India Irie.
You can find more information on Najee at "http://www.myspace.com/najeeonline"