In a business where trends and artists come and go, Najee’s name is synonymous with innovation, consistency and the best in contemporary jazz. The visionary has enjoyed an enviable three-decade career by staying true to his own artistic vision. “Throughout my career, I have enjoyed working with diverse musicians in so many different musical contexts,” confides the two-time Platinum-selling and four-time Gold-selling multi-instrumentalist. “All of these experiences live inside you and they come out in your music. Honestly, if I were not able to mix it up, I would be bored.” Mentored by iconic saxmen Jimmy Heath and Frank Foster and flutist Harold Jones, the New England Conservatory of Music alum has worked with a who’s who list in music that includes Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock. Najee’s anticipated 18th new recording, Center Of The Heart, (Shanachie, November 15, 2019) showcases his technical agility, grace, compositional prowess, unbridled passion and fearless genre bending on ten thrilling tracks. Deftly wielding the soprano, flute, tenor and alto, Najee steers the ten-track excursion, showcasing moving originals, a hauntingly beautiful orchestration of a Bacharach/David classic, a sizzling reinvention of a Maxwell hit and unforgettable collaborations with singer Kenny Lattimore, pianist Greg Manning (Brian McKnight, Deniece Williams, Dave Koz, Jonathan Butler), saxophonist Darren Rahn (Wayman Tisdale, Toby Keith, Dave Koz, Jeff Lorber), and keyboardist/producer Demonte Posey (Eric Benet, Babyface, Toni Braxton).
Najee is a master storyteller. Whether the debonair multi-instrumentalist is engaged in a verbal or musical conversation, his alluring charisma has a way of seducing you into his world. Center Of The Heart finds Najee doing what he does best - shape-shifting through diverse musical terrain and fusing all of the elements that have made him a fan favorite all of these years. The CD opens with the exhilarating and inviting “Bella Vista,” an original Najee penned with Demonte Posey that shines a spotlight on Najee’s dazzling, agile and pristine flute work. The album’s first single unites Najee with saxophonist Darren Rahn who co-wrote the track and who has previously produced for Najee and written hits for Dave Koz and Wayman Tisdale. “I went to Denver,” recalls Najee. “When we got in the studio I could not get Darren’s sax sound out of my head so I said ‘let’s do this one together’ and call it ‘Face To Face.’” Najee puts his own timeless and sensuous spin on Maxwell’s Sumthin' Sumthin' from the singer’s acclaimed Urban Hang Suite and he conjures up his own lush arrangement of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Alfie” from the 1966 film of the same title that was scored by Sonny Rollins. Najee’s idea to play flute instead of the often-recorded tenor saxophone on this track is genius. His impeccable phrasing, flawless tone and sense of timing on this gem almost make time stand still. His performance is breathtaking from the opening note until the end.
Center Of The Heart marks the first time that Najee has recorded with Grammy nominated vocalist Kenny Lattimore.