Saxophonist Najee Releases New Album “Mind Over Matter”
Jazz Saxophonist Najee released his latest album, Mind Over Matter, August of this year, and it is definitely getting the recognition it deserves. Having been inspired by the great Miles David, it combines many different styles – R&B, neo-soul, contemporary jazz – all into one. It is actually in this intricate weaving of styles that the group (and the album) stand out as unique and refreshing.
Album: Mind Over Matter
Label: Heads Up
Release Date: August 21st, 2009
Mind Over Matter, the new recording by saxophonist Najee was released on August 25, 2009 through Heads Up International (a division of Concord Music Group). In addition to Najee’s fine balance of songcraft and musicianship, the album also includes songwriting and guest appearances by keyboardist Jeff Lorber and vocalists Eric Benét and Gary Taylor.
Najee describes the album was inspired by Miles Davis’ approach to songwriting, especially in the latter part of his career:
“In his later years, he took a very loose and improvisational approach. He would
start with nothing more than a groove that Marcus Miller or some other member
of his band would lay down. And from there he would just develop these melodies
that were very simple but at the same time very compelling and very memorable.
It was a creative process that bypassed the nuts and bolts of the song and just
got right to the essence of it.”
It’s not hard to find the groove in Mind Over Matter. It’s evident from the opening bars of the midtempo “Love You a Lifetime,” a song that positions Najee’s smoky sax lines alongside the solid horn arrangements charted by fellow saxophonist Will Holton (who also shares the writing credit with Najee on the track). “This song has a bit of the neo-soul element,” says Najee. “That’s a groove that works very well when we play live. People love to get up and dance at our shows. Will was able to bring that spirit to this song.”
The upbeat followup track, “Sweet Summer Nights,” is co-written by Najee and Darren Rahn. “One of the most under-utilized songwriters in this genre,” according to Najee. “He’s a well-kept secret who has written for Wayman Tisdale and many others. He’s very good at writing songs that contemporary jazz radio likes to play.” Equally upbeat and breezy is the title track, a composition that showcases not only Najee’s ability to build a sophisticated solo on a simple riff, but also the engaging solo work of keyboardist and track co-writer Will Brock.
Eric Benét provides some whimsical and suggestive vocals on “We Gone Ride,” a track that balances his distinctive voice with the work of a carefully layered horn section. It’s a complex song, but it allows for plenty of room for everyone to contribute.
Jeff Lorber lends a hand with writing/producing and keyboards on the playful “Stolen Glances” and the insistent “One More Thing.” Although they’ve shared numerous festival dates in recent years, Mind Over Matter was the first opportunity for Najee and Lorber to collaborate in the studio.
Whatever the groove – be it R&B, neo-soul, contemporary jazz or an intriguing blend of all these styles and more – Mind Over Matter adds another layer of sophistication and polish to Najee’s substantial and diverse body of work.
“Whenever I go into the studio, I try to make a record that’s a little different
from the last one. I want people to get the same Najee that they’re familiar
and comfortable with, but at the same time, I want them to hear something
fresh, something interesting, something unpredictable – with a couple extra
voices in the mix that they haven’t heard on my records in the past.” – Najee