“My life has been a series of pivotal events and circumstances that have gotten me to where I am,” reflects the fearless chart-topping Contemporary Jazz pioneer Najee. In a business where trends and artists come and go, the genre-bending saxophonist’s staying power is a rare blessing. The Grammy and NAACP award-winning musician’s genuine love for connecting with people, coupled with his consummate musicianship and sheer passion for music, have made him one of the brightest stars in Contemporary Jazz for close to four decades.
“I heard this beautiful saying once,” explains the Zen saxophonist who has collaborated with Prince, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Herbie Hancock, among others. “It said that some people meet their destiny while traveling on a road trying to avoid it. I recall as a young man contemplating the idea of changing directions and going into banking. Here I am still doing what I am doing because it’s what I am meant to do! Every day I wake up and I am grateful for my life and career.”
Najee’s gratitude permeates every note on Savoir Faire, his newest recording out on Shanachie Entertainment May 13, 2022. Recorded during the pandemic, Savoir Faire, a Pan American excursion, found Najee enlisting friends from New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Connecticut, Florida, Sao Paulo and Rio, to honor a melting pot of influences. “I gave up worrying about disputes between genres a long time ago,” states Najee. “Duke Ellington said there are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music. So based on that I do not worry. People seem to forget that in the early days of jazz, the music was designed to make people dance. All of your experiences live inside you and they come out in your music. I just want to make good music and make it accessible for people to enjoy.” Fait Accompli on Savoir Faire!
Armed with a surplus of technical agility and firepower, Najee commandeers a magnificent 10-track journey that is a testament to his keen ability to assemble the right musicians in order to orchestrate unforgettable musical moments. Joining Najee on his 19th recording as a leader are Alyson Williams, Frank McComb, Chris “Big Dog” Davis, Barry Eastmond, Adam Hawley and Robert Herbert, among others.
A family man at heart, Najee shares that his greatest joy has been “being able to see my children grow up and live productive lives and go out into the world and make their claim. That for me is what makes life fulfilling and gratifying.” He continues, “I have always had family that has supported me and a brother (Fareed) who was there with me. We have always facilitated keeping one another held up, moving along and meeting challenges together.” As for what keeps Najee cranking out the hits. He concludes with a chuckle, “There is a saying that as musicians we never retire, we just stop hearing. I believe that physically, mentally and spiritually a musician has to love what he does and that inspires him to want to continue to grow and associate themselves with things that inspire them and keep them moving.”