Saxophonist Najee, the two-time Grammy nominee and a pioneer of the “rhythm and jazz” movement of the late ‘80s and ‘90s, continues to shed new light on the contemporary jazz scene with Rising Sun.
Always the innovator, Najee blends various shades of straight-ahead as well as contemporary jazz, classic R&B and even indie rock on this new ten-song set. The result is an album that’s destined to appeal to established fans of his multi-layered groove as well as listeners who are meeting the artist for the first time.
“The idea was to try to do something a little different from before,” says the New York native. “But the challenge in that is to always stay true to my own creative identity at the same time. People who are familiar with me and my music have certain expectations, but I’m always looking for something that’s going to make people say, ‘Hey, this is a little different. This is something fresh.’”
Contributing to this fresh perspective is a coterie of talented songwriters and session players. Producer Chris Davis, who first teamed up with Najee on his previous Heads Up release, My Point of View (HUCD 3104, released in 2005), returns to the production helm on Rising Sun, and offers numerous songwriting credits as well. Najee also co-authors two tracks with labelmate and Pieces of a Dream keyboardist and songwriter extraordinaire James Lloyd. In addition, the saxophonist borrows a couple songs from the old school as well as the new – one from veteran jazz flutist James Moody and another from reigning indie rock songwriter/guitarist John Mayer.
“I really am a fan of his music,” says Najee, who offers up an intriguingly percussive yet mellow cover of Mayer’s “Clarity” on Rising Sun. “Mayer is truly unique as a songwriter and as a performer,” says Najee. “I’ve always liked that particular song, and I thought to myself, ‘I should try something different. I haven’t done a cover song in quite a few albums.’ It may be a bit of a risk to cover a song by an artist who’s enjoying so much current popularity, but risk is good. I think people are always looking for a different perspective on what’s currently popular.”
Najee swaps the saxophone for the flute on the laid back “Child At Heart,” where he is joined by pianist Phil Davis, acoustic bassist Reginald Veal and drummer “Little John” Roberts. The resulting chemistry, says Najee, offers the best of two worlds: “I was careful to make sure that the song still had a contemporary jazz vibe to it, even though it was an acoustic jazz thing with straightahead elements.”
Look into the Rising Sun and catch some of the energy.