All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 (or more) and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help

2

Najee: The Smooth Side of Soul

Jeff Winbush By
Published:
Sign in to view read count
Najee: The Smooth Side of Soul It's hard to remember, but there was a time when jazz used to be played in clubs where the audience didn't simply sit in their seats listening attentively and applauding politely; they even got up and danced to the music. Jazz you can dance to? That seems almost as foreign as listening to large round black discs on a device formerly known as a "record player."

Well, you can dance to The Smooth Side of Soul if you want to. You can sing along, nod your head up and down, tap your toes or simply hum along. This is happy, pleasant and yes, danceable jazz and that's because when Najee puts his saxophone to his lips he doesn't want you to just sit there like a bump on a log. He wants you to move something.

With that thought in mind, Najee offers a little something for many musical tastes: chill out ("You Tube"); funky dance ("Dis n' Dat," "Just To Fall In Love," "Fu Fu She She"); smooth grooves ("Perfect Nites," "One Night In Soho," "First Kiss"); quiet storm ("Mari"); and contemporary ("In the Clouds," "Sound For Sore Ears").

At this point in his career Najee isn't going to astonish anyone by becoming a dynamic innovator on the sax. He is alternating more between saxophone and flute, and his playing is a reminder just how terrific is he on either instrument. Najee has carved out a niche as such a consistently gracious and engaging talent that it is easy to overlook that he's never going to be the most exacting or demanding musician on the scene.

It's a surprise how The Smooth Side of Soul demonstrates Najee is willing to go beyond expectations of being strictly a smooth jazzer to playing it (mostly) straight-ahead on the energetic "In the Clouds, " an unexpected gem produced by keyboardist Jeff Lorber and featuring his strong Fender Rhodes playing, and Bobby Colomby putting in work on the drums.

The cover of Jimmy Heath's "Sound For Sore Ears" is hot stuff and a tantalizing tease of what Najee is capable of. Najee is no Heath, but he doesn't embarrass himself either. It raises the intriguing question of what would an entire album of Najee covering classic jazz in a trio or quartet setting might be like. Here's hoping that someday, soon, Najee answers that question.

The Smooth Side of Soul has the sweet sound of success and once more Najee demonstrates he knows how to provide music programmed for maximum pleasure across a wide cross-section of genres, and he delivers.


Track Listing: Dis N' Dat; Just To Fall In Love; Perfect Nites; You Tube; In the Clouds; One Night In Soho: Mari; Fu Fu She Shee; First Kiss; Sound for Sore Ears

Personnel: Najee: tenor, alto & soprano saxophone, flute; Chris "Big Dog" Davis: keyboards, piano unspecified instruments; Keith Robinson: guitar (1, 7, 8); Phil Perry: lead and background vocals (2); Will Downing: background vocals (2); Jeff Lorber: piano and other keyboards, synth bass (5, 9); Bobby Colomby: drums (5); Seth Lee: bass (5, 10); Darren Rahn: Fender Rhodes, organ, keyboards, hi-hats, cymbals, drum programming, background saxophones (6); Frank Selman: guitars (6); Mel Brown: bass (6); John Roberts: drums (9); Michael Thompson: guitars (9); James Lloyd: piano (10); Mike Warren: drums (10)

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Shanachie Records | Style: Contemporary/Smooth


Related Video

Shop For Jazz

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
The Smooth Side of Soul
The Smooth Side of...
Shanachie Records
2012
buy
Mind Over Matter
Mind Over Matter
Heads Up International
2009
buy
Rising Sun
Rising Sun
Heads Up International
2007
buy
My Point Of View
My Point Of View
Heads Up International
2005
buy
[no cover]
The Best Of Najee

1998
buy
[no cover]
Morning Tenderness
FAN Records
1998
buy
Chuck Mangione Chuck Mangione
flugelhorn
David Sanborn David Sanborn
saxophone
Wayman Tisdale Wayman Tisdale
bass, electric
Kirk Whalum Kirk Whalum
saxophone
Eric Marienthal Eric Marienthal
saxophone
Everette Harp Everette Harp
saxophone
Warren Hill Warren Hill
saxophone

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.