October 10, 2005

Najee - My Point Of View

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. My Point Of View is the new release from smooth jazz veteran Najee and, as one would expect from this consistently excellent performer, he has again hit all the right buttons with his special blend of edgy smooth jazz and soul. Najee, a native of New York City, was one of the best-selling instrumentalists from the late '80s through to the mid-'90s and in every respect a true pioneer of smooth jazz.

He enjoyed his first big break in 1983 when, with his brother Fareed, he toured with Chaka Khan. This in turn brought him to the attention of producer Charles Huggins and it was through Huggins production company HUSH that Najee cut his debut long player for EMI, Najees Theme, in 1986. The album went platinum and two years later this success was repeated with the follow up Day By Day. Since then Najee has added six more releases, four of them going ‘gold’, plus one ‘best of’ collection in a career that with My Point Of View shows no signs of slowing down.

My Point Of View is smooth jazz very much in the mid tempo laid back style that Najee has made his own. It’s a collection for grown ups that is controlled, never off the chain but always soulful sensuous and moving. The ten-track set exudes quality throughout and features a number of notable collaborations especially those in which Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Davies plays a part. His influence is on show right from the first track ‘Sidewayz’ where he writes, produces and plays keyboards. The tune is a sophisticated slice of smooth jazz with the pleasant surprise of Najee featuring on flute.

In fact Chris Davies features four more times. Both of the Davies compositions ‘How Lovely You Are’ and the title track of the CD are reflective melodic tunes that Najee handles with great feeling while ‘Fallin In Love With You’, showcasing the vocals of the up and coming Lomon, is smoky urban soul given a romantic feel by the keyboards of Davies and the lightest of touches by Najee. Contender for best track on the CD is the Chris Davies composition ‘3 AM’. With the silky smooth vocals of Will Downing, the soprano sax of Najee and stellar production by Davies this is where quiet storm meets smooth jazz and wins.

The cut slated for radio play and currently active just below the thirty most played is ‘2nd 2 None’. Tight and funky, this mid tempo tune written by keyboard player James Lloyd is spiced with horns and is one to nod your head to while stuck in the morning traffic.

‘Back In The Day’ finds Najee partnering with the smooth jazz savvy of composer, producer and keyboard player Rex Rideout for a track that evokes images of a glittering New York skyline at midnight. Atmospheric in the extreme Najee makes the most of the moment with the sweetest of playing. Even better is the second Najee Rideout composition ‘Charmed’ which is quite simply one of the best tracks on the album and stand out smooth jazz of the highest order.

Not content with introducing the listening public to the vocal skills of Lomon, Najee does it again on ‘Emotional’ where he includes new female vocalist Sisaundra. On this showing she should do well. Handling the complexities of the composition with some style she generates both soul and feeling before giving way to Najee who threatens to cut loose with some soulful playing. The final track on the CD, ‘Miyuki’, has an aura all its own with an atmospheric yet infectious rhythm and playing from Najee that is typical of what has made him a smooth jazz superstar over two decades.

Go out and buy My Point Of View. You will not be disappointed. Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at October 10, 2005 4:43 PM