First View: Najee Center Of The Heart

What makes a musician to a legend? Is it fame or notoriety? Legends are musicians who have set new standards in their genre, who have significantly influenced their musical style and in particular other musicians. If these standards are applied, Najee can rightly be called a legend.

Center Of The Heart (2019) is Najee's sign of continuous creativity and productivity after fifteen studio albums, two live albums and three compilations. Najee performs on his new album flute, soprano, alto and tenor sax. He works with Grecco Buratto, Ken Turner, Kenny Lattimore (vocals), Demonte Posey (keyboards, strings, bass synth, drums), Rohan Reid (bass and acoustic guitar), Darren Rahn (sax and Rhodes, programming, synth and bass), Allen Hinds, Darrell Crooks (guitars), Mell Brown, Alex Al (bass), Tarell Martin, Eric Valentine (drums), Greg Manning (keyboards, programming, synth bass), Anthony Saunders (background vocals), Superb and Harmoni Clawson (spoken words), Rod Bonner (Vocoder, keyboards, key bass, drum programming), Blair Bryant (bass, drums, bass synth), and Donald Hayes (horn arrangement).

The album opens with the vibrant Bella Vista featuring Najee on flute. Brazilian-born Grecco Buratto's lively singing creates a Latin ambiance. Najee is an admirer of Darren Rahn's treatment of the saxophone. He had already worked with him on the albums The Smooth Side Of Soul and Mind Over Matter. Face To Face offers a new opportunity for collaboration. While Darren plays the saxes and some additional instruments, Najee shines on flute sharing the melody in equal parts with plenty of room for own presentation.

Sumthin' Sumthin' is a mid up-tempo song by American neo soul singer Maxwell. The third single from his album Urban Hang Suite (1996). Najee adds on his rendition his magic instrumental touch but also favorites Ken Turner's vocals. Alfie is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David to promote the 1966 film Alfie. Although somewhat dusty due to age, Najee is able to peel the beauty of the melody from its core.

Better is Najee's first collaboration with singer Kenny Lattimore. Najee comments: “Kenny and I started our careers around same time and never did a record together even though we have been around the world together. We first met in 1998 when we both performed at Nelson Mandela’s Gift To the Nation concert in Johannesburg and Durban.” While Kenny composes the melody like a mosaic overdub wise in R&B technique, Najee masterly improvises on his instrument.

The Way She Moves was written, arranged, mixed, produced and performed by Swiss-American keyboardist Greg Manning, who has an ear for the trendy melody that perfectly adapts to the genre. One Note Love is a song written by Rod Bonner and Superb Clawson building a bridge between smooth jazz and hip hop. Superb is by the way Najee's son.

With Speak Love! Greg Manning and Najee offer another seductively stimulating song who has all the prerequisites to become a classic. Center of the Heart is penned by Kansas City Missouri born bassist Blair Bryant who has surprised this year the listeners with the uniqueness of his third album Cerulean Blue. The catchy hook of this mind opener is on point. You will love Blair's piccolo bass.

Tonight We Say Goodbye is a wonderful reflection about Earth, Wind and Fire's Phenix Horns. Donald Hayes is responsible for the graceful horn arrangement. A perfect base for Najee to expand his sax skills.

On Center of the Heart Najee can fully rely on the compositional qualities of his fellow players or musical ancestors, which gives him the opportunity to showcase his passionate perfection as performer. Najee pulls the right trigger to satisfy his fans captivating their minds and bodies.


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