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.
A quadruple threat who is equally adept on soprano, tenor and alto saxophones and flute, Najee’s technical agility, grace, compositional prowess, unbridled passion, fearless genre bending and superior musicianship have made him one of the most sought after musicians of his generation. In a business where trends and artists come and go, Najee’s name is synonymous with innovation, consistency and the best in contemporary jazz.
With two Platinum and four Gold albums under his belt, he is an icon whose musical vision spawned an entire new genre by fusing the music close to his heart (R&B and jazz). Three decades later he is showing that he is not done yet! Najee has collaborated with everyone from Prince and Quincy Jones to Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Herbie Hancock. He has also had the distinction to perform for Presidents Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela and made appearances on ‘The Tonight Show’ and ‘Good Morning America.’
Last month Najee released his new album “The Morning After – A Musical Love Journey.” The new album includes a tribute to his dear friend George Duke as well as the lead single, a great track with Meli’sa Morgan entitled “In The Mood To Take It Slow.”
Aries from UrbanBridgez.com talked to the legendary instrumentalist about his new album, lessons he’s learned in the music business, his all-time favorite tracks he’s recorded, who he would like to collaborate with next and much more!
UrbanBridgez.com: Tell us about the new album and what fans can expect once they press play?
Najee: Well when they press play, they will get an experience of a love fantasy album. Meaning it’s a scenario of two people who meet in the airport and they go to different places around the world. Starting with a rendezvous and they move on to an area called Central Bay and go on to other places like Paris. You can take a trip to the moon on this release (laughs). And we end up on west 77th and Broadway in NYC where I spent part of my childhood. It’s really just places I’ve been around the world. I decided to make more of an concept album.
UrbanBridgez.com: I was going to ask what your goal was when you started recording, but you kind of answered it with saying you wanted to create a concept album.
Najee: If I can be really honest with you, it was a collection of songs and as the times went on and the songs began to develop I started to come up with titles and just the way it began to come together it just seemed more sexy (both laugh). So I decided to make something out of it based on places I’ve been.
UrbanBridgez.com: What makes this album more different than any other one you’ve done?
Najee: With every album I try to have a twist, and with this one it’s a special appearance by a special friend of mine Meli’sa Morgan. Who is one of our R&B legends of our time. You know me and her go way back. We started with Chaka Khan playing together, you know that whole story. We also have Brian Bromberg, the great jazz basses on there. But really I think if there is any special element, it’s two things. One is, the fact that I used one consistent band with the exception of the last song, throughout the whole record. There was no changing between producers or musicians. We just took four guys, we went in the studio and laid it down. That was a special consistency in the way it was recorded.
UrbanBridgez.com: How did you and Meli’sa Morgan hook up for this album.
Najee: In the last year or so, there have been a couple of concert dates that we’ve brought her in on. That was great, really a lot of fun! The response from the audience, led me to believe that maybe there is something we can make out of this. So far, it seems like I’m correct about that.
UrbanBridgez.com: You’ve been recording albums for almost 30 years! Did you think you would still be doing it in 2013?
Najee: You know what, I honestly didn’t come out with a plan. When I started as a kid, I didn’t have a clue to what I was doing (laughs). My first album went gold immediately within three months. That was my first gold album and for a jazz artist that was phenomenal sells. But honestly if you were to ask me back then how did I do it? Honestly I had no idea. Other than I did stuff that I was fortunate to make a connection with and an audience that has grown with me. And it’s still exciting to me to try to appeal to a new audience as well as still that audience.
UrbanBridgez.com: What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in this industry?
Najee: To be prepared for the changes. Always expect the unexpected! You have to live by that when you’re in the music business you know.
UrbanBridgez.com: I would have to say my favorite songs by you would have to be Feels So Good To Me and I’ll Be Good To You.
Najee: Oh wow, those are real throw backs (both laugh).
UrbanBridgez.com: I had to get from you, what to you are some of your absolute favorites that you’ve recorded?
Najee: Man that’s a hard one. I always have to give credit to my first album “Najee’s Theme,” as I stated before when I started with that I had no clue to what I was doing. I’m just happy the effort really paid off in that way. And I would have to say the works that I’ve done with my brother Fareed, with us working together and collaborating with out first few albums. So I think the albums we’ve done like Tokyo Blue which was a very successful album and of course the project I’m doing now. Just to be able to do a live studio album. To just show up and a saxophone player and not worry about producing.
UrbanBridgez.com: You’ve collaborated with just about everybody, is there anyone left on your wish list that you would like to work with?
Najee: It’s interesting you say that, I had the pleasure unfortunately it was for a sad event, but I had the pleasure of performing with Robert Glasper and Stanley Clark. It was for the George Duke memorial a couple of months ago. I really like what Robert Glasper is doing, so I would love to collaborate with him.
UrbanBridgez.com: Outside of music is there anything that you’re working on that you want to share with your fans?
Najee: I plan to do more charitable work and get involved with some more organizations. I’ve been blessed to have a couple of children graduate from HPCU and my third one is at Morehouse now. So I think I’m making my contribution (both laugh).
UrbanBridgez.com: Is there anything else you want to say to your fans before we wrap up?
Najee: I would like to say thank you, to the people for supporting me all of these years. I hope that I haven’t disappointed anyone with my new musical works. This is always exciting for me and I really appreciate the people listening and embracing what I do.