#1 Billboard Artist Najee Drops 18th & New CD Friday – Jazziz Has Exclusive Stream Now!

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#1 BILLBOARD ARTIST & MULTI-PLATINUM SELLING JAZZ VISIONARY NAJEE IS BACK WITH NEW MUSIC SURE TO CAPTURE
THE CENTER OF THE HEART
In a business where trends and artists come and go, Najee’s name is synonymous with innovation, consistency and the best in contemporary jazz. The visionary has enjoyed an enviable three-decade career by staying true to his own artistic vision. “Throughout my career, I have enjoyed working with diverse musicians in so many different musical contexts,” confides the two-time Platinum-selling and four-time Gold-selling multi-instrumentalist. “All of these experiences live inside you and they come out in your music. Honestly, if I were not able to mix it up, I would be bored.” Mentored by iconic saxmen Jimmy Heath and Frank Foster and flutist Harold Jones, the New England Conservatory of Music alum has worked with a who’s who list in music that includes Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock. Najee’s anticipated 18th new recording, Center Of The Heart, (Shanachie, November 15, 2019) showcases his technical agility, grace, compositional prowess, unbridled passion and fearless genre bending on ten thrilling tracks. Deftly wielding the soprano, flute, tenor and alto, Najee steers the ten-track excursion, showcasing moving originals, a hauntingly beautiful orchestration of a Bacharach/David classic, a sizzling reinvention of a Maxwell hit and unforgettable collaborations with singer Kenny Lattimore, pianist Greg Manning (Brian McKnight, Deniece Williams, Dave Koz, Jonathan Butler), saxophonist Darren Rahn (Wayman Tisdale, Toby Keith, Dave Koz, Jeff Lorber), and keyboardist/producer Demonte Posey (Eric Benet, Babyface, Toni Braxton).
Najee is a master storyteller. Whether the debonair multi-instrumentalist is engaged in a verbal or musical conversation, his alluring charisma has a way of seducing you into his world. Center Of The Heart finds Najee doing what he does best – shape-shifting through diverse musical terrain and fusing all of the elements that have made him a fan favorite all of these years. The CD opens with the exhilarating and inviting “Bella Vista,” an original Najee penned with Demonte Posey that shines a spotlight on Najee’s dazzling, agile and pristine flute work. The album’s first single unites Najee with saxophonist Darren Rahn who co-wrote the track and who has previously produced for Najee and written hits for Dave Koz and Wayman Tisdale. “I went to Denver,” recalls Najee. “When we got in the studio I could not get Darren’s sax sound out of my head so I said ‘let’s do this one together’ and call it ‘Face To Face.’” Najee puts his own timeless and sensuous spin on Maxwell’s Sumthin’ Sumthin’ from the singer’s acclaimed Urban Hang Suite and he conjures up his own lush arrangement of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Alfie” from the 1966 film of the same title that was scored by Sonny Rollins. Najee’s idea to play flute instead of the often-recorded tenor saxophone on this track is genius. His impeccable phrasing, flawless tone and sense of timing on this gem almost make time stand still. His performance is breathtaking from the opening note until the end.
Center Of The Heart marks the first time that Najee has recorded with Grammy nominated vocalist Kenny Lattimore. “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.” It is undeniable that Najee and Lattimore both get “Better” with time. The laid-back and in-the-pocket flow of “The Way She Moves” features Najee’s bluesy tenor while the soulful “One Note Love” is a family affair. The latter features Najee’s son, rapper Superb Clawson and his granddaughter is also heard on the track. The banger “Speak Love!” will have you confessing your love over the way Najee rides danceable grooves and elevates the mood with his joyful orchestration and jubilant melodic anthems. The album’s title track was co-written by and features bassist Blair Bryant, who has collaborated with Stanley Clark, Eric Roberson and Bernie Williams among others. The euphoric and hypnotic feel good track is an album highlight. Center Of The Heart Najee closes with “Tonight We Say Goodbye.” This bittersweet parting is a reminder of why we keep coming back for more.
“When I was about 14 I was playing on a school instrument and everyone in the house was covering their ears and saying “stop, stop!” My mom noticed that it was my thing and kind of my release and bought me my first saxophone,” recalls Najee. As I began to develop on my instrument, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Yusef Lateef and Hubert Laws on flute were some of the artists that inspired me. As an industrious and hungry young musician, Najee had the good fortune of coming through Dr. Billy Taylor’s now legendary Jazzmobile program. While a student at the New England Conservatory (where both Najee and his brother attended) he studied jazz with George Russell and Jaki Byard. When he finished school Najee returned to New York in the early 80s and was lucky to land a gig with Chaka Khan along with his brother, guitarist Fareed (who is now his manager). In 1987 Najee’s Themewas released and the saxophonist earned a slot on tour with singer Freddie Jackson. The following year, Day By Day was released, and in 1991, Tokyo Blue, which is one of Najee’s most successful and enduring recordings. Tokyo Blue (whichwas producedby Najee’s brother Fareed) and Day By Day both went Gold and led to two Soul Train Awards for Najee (Best Jazz Artist in 1991 and 1993). Just An Illusioncame in 1992 and around this time he collaborated with such iconic figures as Quincy Jones and a collaboration with jazz greats Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham and Larry Carlton resulted in the album Live At The Greek. Share My Worldcame 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 featured Herbie Hancock and Sheila E. among others. His CD Morning Tenderness, released in 1998, went to #1 on the contemporary jazz charts. For Najee, the late ‘90s 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 two years of touring (2001-2003) with Prince and appears on Prince’s albums Rainbow Children and One Night Alone. 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. 2007’s Rising Sun joined Najee with Phil Perry and Mind Over Matter from 2009 paired Najee with singer Eric Benét.  The Smooth Side Of Soul (Najee’s Shanachie debut) followed in 2012, successfully covering such diverse terrain as Jimmy Heath and Ne-Yo and the follow-up, The Morning After, arrived in 2013 debuting at #1 on the Billboard charts and exploring the many sides of love. You, Me & Forever was released in 2015 and united Najee with James Lloyd and Frank McComb among others. In 2017 Najee released Poetry In Motion, dedicated to the memory of Prince and Al Jarreau and featuring an all-star line up including Maysa, Will Downing, Eric Roberson and Incognito.
“I’ve known real legends,” concludes Najee. “I remember watching Charles Mingus rehearse when I was a kid and meeting Sonny Rollins at 16. There is a saying about musicians. It says that we never retire – we just stop hearing music. I still hear music and I love working with people and that is what keeps me inspired.”

“THE JOURNEY” IS THE REWARD FOR NICK COLIONNE

Nick Colionne is embracing the success of his ninth and most recent album, “The Journey,” and has already begun to share the music through his engaging performances. When I spoke to Nick, he was in Florida getting ready for the Seabreeze Jazz Festival. Nick collaborated with Najee, James Lloyd, Chris “Big Dog” Davis, John “Blaster” Blasucci, and Nicholas Cole on “The Journey” which engulfs and delivers the varying styles of each musician. Colionne’s career has been a journey of highs and lows, he admits, and this album represents and reflects that journey. Nick maintains that he is thankful and blessed for the gift of music and hopes to continually make his family and fans proud.

Nick and I share conversation and laughter:

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Hitman Darren Rahn seeks maximum impact with “Sonic Boom”

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Hitman Darren Rahn seeks maximum impact with “Sonic Boom”

The saxophonist’s fifth album, due March 4, will have an exclusive world premiere on February 27; 

dynamic first single, “D-Luxe,” explodes onto radio playlists.

DENVER (24 February 2016): Whether it’s with a devastating jazz-funk workout, nasty R&B groove, bellowing gospel soul call or an emotionally-intense melody, saxman Darren Rahn is hitting and hitting hard on “Sonic Boom,” his fifth album and first for Woodward Avenue Records, which is releasing the recording March 4. Responsible for crafting 25 No. 1 singles, Rahn, who produced and wrote all nine originals on the ten tracker, is virtually guaranteed to add to that total with the combustible new set on which he trades blows with chart-toppers Rick Braun, Jonathan Fritzen and Julian Vaughn as well as Rico Wint (vocals) and Robin Eubanks (trombone). The multiple GRAMMY® nominee’s new offering is already off to a powerful start with radio programmers making the lush, horn-ignited “D-Luxe” the No. 1 most-added single on the Billboard BDS chart.           

Undaunted by his successes as a solo artist as well as a producer, songwriter and engineer behind some of the biggest instrumental hits by marquee artists over the past decade, Rahn changed his approach on “Sonic Boom” in an effort to elevate his sound, technique and unique artistic expression.  On previous releases, he orated through tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, but elected to play tenor exclusively on the forthcoming album to define a singular voice. The record plays and is paced like a live show with each song having a cold ending as opposed to a studio fade. Rahn’s production sounds live and warm, aided in part by his decision to use only real drums, another first. His melody-rich material comes straight from the heart sounding grand and luminous, packing a wallop with potent hooks that are passionately performed. The outing also serves as a showcase for Rahn’s proficiency as a multi-instrumentalist – the sax player also plays piano, keyboards, Hammond organ, vocals, EWI and synth programming on “Sonic Boom.” He makes it a family affair by inviting his brother, Jason Rahn, to play trumpet, flugelhorn and guitar and coaxes his wife, Priscilla, to play flute on the lone cover, a rapturous “Rock With You.” Guitarist Allen Hinds and bassist Mel Brown maintain constant presences on the disc while several drummers (Anthony Steele, Tarell Martin and Anthony Jones) pound out the beats. Vaughn fills in admirably for the late bassist Wayman Tisdale on “Losing You,” a moving musical tribute penned by Rahn for his frequent collaborator and departed friend.        

“The idea behind ‘Sonic Boom’ is about real music – inspired music – created with real musicians playing real instruments and presented in a way that plays much like a live set. I wanted to condense my personality down to the very core to concisely express the essence of who I am as an artist. Drawing from the assorted musical styles that form my musical personality and saxophone playing – jazz, funk, R&B, soul, pop, rock, gospel and fusion – I wanted ‘Sonic Boom’ to reflect the diversity of my musical influences and history while at the same time flowing and working as a cohesive collection. In an era when music is often created by taking shortcuts, it was my desire to use the finest analog and digital studio equipment and state-of-the-art techniques while gathering as many of the best studio session players as possible. I wanted to create something that would provide the listener with a truly amazing listening experience, sounding full, warm, punchy, luxurious and exciting. My hope is that people will genuinely be impacted by the music, that it will bring joy and encouragement,” said Rahn about “Sonic Boom,” which will premiere in its entirety on Saturday, February 27 at 10am PT/1pm ET on the SmoothJazz.com site.

The British Columbia native who calls Denver home issued his solo debut, “Soulful,” in 2004. That same year, Rahn produced Tisdale’s No. 1 signature smash “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.” He hit full stride as an artist and producer in 2009 when his “Talk of the Town” reigned supreme at No. 1 on the Billboard chart at about the same time he produced No. 1 hits for Dave Koz, Eric Darius and Tim Bowman. During one particular period of chart domination, he occupied the top three spots and later had four singles in the top 10 simultaneously. Rahn earned GRAMMY® nominations for his work on a pair of Koz albums (“Hello Tomorrow” and “Summer Horns”). His meticulously-constructed sonicscapes have made his deft touch highly sought after, affording him the opportunity to work with Bob James, Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown, Jonathan Butler, Najee, Toby Keith, Jeffrey Osborne, Phil Perry, Nick Colionne and Lebron as well as Fritzen and Vaughn. For more information, please visit www.DarrenRahn.com or www.WoodwardAvenueRecords.com      

The songs contained on “Sonic Boom” are:

“D-Luxe”

“Sonic Boom”

“Funk Avenue”

“Losing You” (For Wayman)

“Together…Forever…”

“Altered Ego”

“101 One”

“Rock With You”

“Sunday Soul”

“Promises” (For Priscilla)

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CECIL RAMIREZ SETS THE TONE WITH “PARTY IN THE BACK”

The sound of Cecil Ramirez’s new album, “Party In The Back,” is reminiscent of the 80’s. It is a throwback to an era in music that he loves and that is memorable to most people. Although the album was released a year later than Cecil anticipated, friends and fans patiently waited. Cecil Ramirez is just coming from his fourth year at the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway. He performs at the welcome dinner and sets the tone for the rest of the week. Napa is beautiful for multiple reasons and often times, special for a few. The latter is true for Ramirez and his wife. They had their first date there and got engaged there. Needless to say, Napa will always hold a special place in his heart. Embracing the beauty of wine country sparked an interest in learning about wine in Cecil. Wine and music are a perfect combination. “Party In The Back” is a fun, energetic, and funky background to many of summer’s festivities. It puts you in the mood to reflect and party. Cecil wrote seven of the ten songs on the album. He collaborated with Brian Culbertson, Michael Lington, Adam Hawley, Darren Rahn, and Phil Denny. He also covered a few songs that are sure to take you back: “Remember The Time” by Michael Jackson, “Stronger Than Before,” and “Georgy Porgy” by David Paich.

Cecil and I have a great time discussing the album:

Party In The Back

Party In The Back

JULIAN VAUGHN’S FUTURE IS “LIMITLESS”

He is never complacent but rather, just the opposite. He is always striving to be better, realizing that he has embarked upon a journey–one that has been promising thus far. I offer that after the release of his latest album “Limitless,” there is no doubt that Julian Vaughn is on this journey to stay. He understands the highs and lows of the business; embracing every opportunity to make his mark. Vaughn has persevered, even after almost giving up his musical dream. Having become fond of the bass at age 14 and after hearing “Power Forward” by Wayman Tisdale, Julian knew he was on to something promising. “Limitless” is a comprised of all original songs. Julian is joined by a few of his friends and fellow musicians on the album. They include: Nicholas Cole, Elan Trotman, Lebron Dennis, Marcus Anderson, Darren Rahn, and Althea Rene. “Limitless” also features two great vocalists, Anthony Saunders and Kim Griddine. The first single, “Ride Along,” features saxophonist, Elan Trotman. It is a funky, melodic dance between the two. “Limitless” also has a few love songs that are on their way to becoming fan favorites. Julian admits that he is a “hopeless romantic” and that “love songs reflect his personality.” While fans feast on “Limitless,” they can rest assured that Vaughn is still making new music and can anticipate a new album in the summer of next year.

Julian and I discuss music, life, and reality:

Julian Vaughn

VANDELL ANDREW

Vandell Andrew hails from New Orleans where jazz is rooted and abundant. It wasn’t until he was a teenager attending a summer camp that, unbeknownst to him, his future would be set in motion. He would later lay down the trumpet for the saxophone, and the rest is history. After enduring hurricane Katrina, Andrew relocated to Texas. It was there where his passion was fueled, and music became his life. As always, on the other side of every storm, there is a rainbow. For Vandell, that rainbow was a collection of original music and a debut album titled “Years Later.” He went on to share the stage with jazz musicians such as Kirk Whalum and collaborate with others such as Darren Rahn. He recently released an EP titled “Turn It Up.” And that is exactly what he wants his fans to do: turn it up and enjoy. They have done just that and embraced Vandell’s new music, giving it great reviews.

Vandell and I talk about the past and the present.

Vandell Andrew

Vandell Andrew

PIANIST SCOTT ALLMAN

Pianist Scott Allman has definitely found a place amongst a new generation of rising contemporary jazz artists and deservedly so. He’s not a trained prodigy who has been playing the keyboard all his life; instead, he is a self-taught musician with a sincere love for music. Throughout his life, Scott was exposed to many different genres of music, making his musical pallet well-versed. Armed with passion and talent, Scott creates music that is positive and uplifting. As long as the music is meaningful and fulfilling to him and can give listeners a lift, then he’s done his job. He is an artist who can do it all, from composing to producing to playing. In addition, he surrounds himself with musicians who have impeccable talent such as Darren Rahn, Lin Rountree, and Phil Denny who lend themselves to his projects. Scott’s current cd, “NEXT STOP HOME,” has had significant success and was inspired by his fans. The 12 original tracks were written by Allman but were derived from photos of places around the world sent to him by others. With this amazing concept, he created music just as an artist would a painting. He’s a composer who appreciates the life inside of a song and lets it manifest in its own way; each song takes you on a journey as seen through the eyes of others.

I had a great time talking with Scott and listening as he told me the story behind each song.

Scott Allman

Scott Allman

Scott Allman

Scott Allman