Najee

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Photo by William Henderson
Photo from his 2007 album Rising Sun

Jerome Najee Rasheed (born in New York City, New York), known professionally as Najee, is an American jazz and smooth jazz saxophonist and flautist.

Early life[edit]

Two-time Grammy nominated saxophonist and flautist, Najee was born in the Greenwich Village in New York City and raised in Jamaica Queens, New York, by his mother Mary Richards. His father died soon after he was born. Najee's musical pursuits began in grade school at age eight, where he learned how to play the clarinet. He was also influenced at this age by listening to his mother's recordings of Miles Davis and other legendary American jazz artists. This was a pivotal moment in his life where he decided to become a professional jazz musician. In high school, Najee began to study jazz as a student at the Jazzmobile program (Co-Founded by Dr. Billy Taylor) where he honed his skills on tenor saxophone and flute under the direction of Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster and Ernie Wilkins. At age 16, Najee studied flute at the Manhattan School of Music Preparatory Division, where he took lessons with Harold Jones, flautist from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Inspired by legendary saxophonists John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Yusef Lateef, Grover Washington Jr. and Hubert Laws on flute, it wasn't until his brother, Fareed suggested he should include the soprano saxophone as his main instrument. This suggestion later helped catapult Najee's career with his trademark sound in the entertainment industry. After high school, at the age of 18, Najee first world tour was with Area Code performing for the USO world tour for military bases in Europe and Latin America. Upon returning from the tour, Najee went on the road with Ben E. King. Afterwards, Najee (and his brother Fareed) was accepted at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music in Boston where he studied saxophone performance with Joe Allard and performed with George Russell and Jaki Byard big bands.[1]

Career[edit]

After his studies at the conservatory, Najee returned to New York in the early 1980's, where he performed with Chaka Khan along with his brother and guitarist Fareed (who is now his manager). This opportunity gave Najee the platform to begin his career as a solo jazz instrumentalist. In 1986, he released his debut album entitled, Najee's Theme (EMI/Capital).[2] The album earned Najee a Grammy Award Nomination and a slot on the "Tasty Love" tour with R&B singer Freddie Jackson. The following year, Day By Day was released and went platinum. Tokyo Blue released in 1991, (produced by Najee's brother Fareed) is one of Najee’s most successful and enduring recordings to date. Both Tokyo Blue and Day By Day led to Najee winning two Soul Train Awards for (Best Jazz Artist in 1991 and 1993). In 1992, Najee's next album Just An Illusion was released during the same time he collaborated with such iconic figures as Quincy Jones and jazz greats Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham and Larry Carlton which resulted in the album Live At The Greek.[3] Following this collaboration, his next album Share My World was released in 1994 and was followed in 1995 by a critically acclaimed tribute to Stevie Wonder's 1976 classic, Songs In The Key of Life. The CD was produced by George Duke and features Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, Sheila E. and Patrice Rushen among others. His CD Morning Tenderness was released in 1998 and went #1 on the contemporary jazz charts. Also released the same year was The Best of Najee, (Blue Note Records/Capitol)[4] and his tour with the USO for the troops in the Mediterranean: Spain and Turkey.

For Najee, the late ‘90s and early 00's were marked by extraordinary international experiences, from performing at Nelson Mandela’s birthday celebration in South Africa to playing as a special guest of President Clinton at the White House at an event honoring President Jerry Rawlings of the Republic of Ghana. Najee also spent three years of touring (2000-2003) with Prince and appears on Prince’s albums “Rainbow Children” and “One Night Alone”.[5] In 2003, Najee released Embrace featuring special guests Roy Ayers and BeBe Winans. My Point Of View was his follow up in 2005 featuring his good friend and vocalist Will Downing. In 2006, Najee won an NAACP Image Award for "Best Jazz Artist". His 2007 album Rising Sun, featured singer Phil Perry and Mind Over Matter, from 2009 paired Najee with singer Eric Benét. In 2012, his album The Smooth Side Of Soul was his first release with Shanachie Records which featured production from keyboardist and producer Jeff Lorber and saxophonist and producer Darren Rahn, as well as guest vocals from R&B singer Phil Perry on the lead single, "Just To Fall In Love". The video for "Just To Fall In Love" also features actress Vanessa Bell Calloway and songstress N'dambi.

Najee's latest album and second release with Shanachie in 2013, The Morning After, A Musical Love Journey[6][7] earned him an NAACP Image Award Nomination for "Outstanding Jazz Album" (2014)[8] and Soul Train Awards Nomination for "Best Contemporary Jazz Performance" (2014).[9][10] The album produced by Demonte Posey, features R&B singer Meli'sa Morgan and bassist Brian Bromberg, along with musicians bassist Bill Sharpe, guitarist Ray Fuller, drummer Daniel Powell, pianist Nick Smith and drummer Joel Taylor.

Throughout his career, Najee has performed and recorded with vocalists including Chaka Khan, Freddie Jackson, Will Downing, Phil Perry, Prince, Patti Labelle, Phyllis Hyman, Vesta Williams and Jeffrey Osborne. He has recorded and performed with instrumentalists Marcus Miller, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, Billy Cobham, Charles Earland, Paul Jackson Jr. and George Duke.[11] With two Platinum and four Gold albums under his belt, Najee is an icon whose musical vision spawned an entire new genre by fusing the music close to his heart (R&B and jazz).

Personal life[edit]

Najee has three brothers, two sisters and six children. He was married for many years to Regina Jackson, whom the notable song "Gina" was written for.[12] Najee and Regina divorced in the mid 1990's.

Discography[edit]

  • Najee's Theme (1986, EMI/Capitol)
  • Day by Day (October 1988, Capitol)
  • Tokyo Blue (February 1990, Capitol)
  • Just an Illusion (June 1992, Capitol)
  • Live At The Greek" with Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton and Billy Cobham (July 1994, Sony)
  • Share my World (October 1994, Capitol)
  • Najee Plays Songs from the Key of Life: A Tribute To Stevie Wonder (November 1995, Capitol)
  • Best of Najee (November 1998 Blue Note/Capitol)
  • Morning Tenderness (November 1998, Polygram)
  • Love Songs (2000)
  • Embrace (2003, Encoded Music)
  • My Point of View (2005, Heads Up)
  • Rising Sun (2007, Heads Up)
  • Mind Over Matter (2009, Heads Up)
  • The Smooth Side Of Soul (2012, Shanachie Records)
  • The Morning After, A Musical Love Journey (2013, Shanachie Records)

Compilation appearances[edit]

Billboard charts[edit]

Najee's Theme

Top Contemporary Jazz Albums No. 1
Top Jazz Albums No. 8
Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums No. 12
The Billboard 200 No. 56

Day by Day

Top Contemporary Jazz Albums No. 6
Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums No. 23
The Billboard 200 No. 76

Tokyo Blue

Top Contemporary Jazz Albums No. 1
Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums No. 17
The Billboard 200 No. 63

Just an Illusion

Top Contemporary Jazz Albums No. 5
Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums No. 25
The Billboard 200 No. 107

Share My World

Top Contemporary Jazz Albums No. 2
Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums No. 23
The Billboard 200 No. 163

Songs from the Key of Life

Top Contemporary Jazz Albums No. 6
Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums No. 67

Morning Tenderness

Top Contemporary Jazz Albums No. 2
Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums No. 65

The Best of Najee

Top Contemporary Jazz Albums No. 15

Love Songs

Top Contemporary Jazz Albums No. 23

Embrace

Top Contemporary Jazz Albums No. 7
Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums No. 82

My Point of View

Top Contemporary Jazz Album No. 1

"Rising Sun"

Top Contemporary Jazz Album No. 1

"Mind Over Matter"

Top Contemporary Jazz Album No. 2
Billboard Jazz Album No.4

"Sweet Summer Nights" Number 1 Smooth Jazz Song Billboard

References[edit]

  1. ^ Reilly, Debra. "Najee:Saxophanist,flutist". eNotes. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  2. ^ Henderson, Alex. "Najee: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  3. ^ "Stanley Clarke & Friends Live at the Greek". Chicago Tribune. January 19, 1995. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  4. ^ Erlewhine, Stephen. "The Best of Najee: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  5. ^ http://theburtonwire.com/2014/01/05/education/jazz-musician-najee-talks-new-music-the-other-side-of-prince/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ http://www.smoothjazzmag.com/information.php?information_id=453.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ "Najee "The Morning After" debut #1 Interview & CD Review 10/23/1". October 23, 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  8. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/45th_NAACP_Image_Awards.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ http://www.billboard.com/articles/6281631/soul-train-award-nominations-chris-brown-beyonce.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "Soul Train Award Nominations". October 13, 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  11. ^ "Signed Music Artists: Najee". Artistopia. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  12. ^ "Smooth Views". SmoothViews.com. June 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 

External links[edit]