#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.”

SMOOTH JAZZ CRUISE

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West Coast Jazz Party at Sea prepared to be hit by a tidal wave of live music

Many firsts are in store for the star studded cruise hosted by Brian Culbertson & Boney James

sailing to the gorgeous Mexican Riviera.

St. Louis, Missouri (24 June 2013): If there has been one complaint among passengers who have sailed aboard The Smooth Jazz Cruise during its first decade it is that there are so many extraordinary concerts and events to attend that it is simply impossible to see and do everything during the 7-day music vacation experience. Wait until they find out what is planned for the first-ever West Coast departure of the perennially sold out luxury cruise to music paradise sailing to exotic Mexican Riviera ports October 12-19. With an astounding 60 concerts slated and a jam-packed program of unique first-time events, excursions and opportunities exclusively available during the West Coast Jazz Party at Sea, this adventure bodes to top all previous cruises, including the traditional January sailing that sold out for 2014 in record time.

R&B jazz luminaries Brian Culbertson and Boney James will host the cruise embarking from San Diego aboard Holland America’s m/s Westerdam en route to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Baja Coast with a starry cast of Grammy-winning and chart-topping performers featuring David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, Tower of Power, Candy Dulfer, Jonathan Butler, Oleta Adams, Rick Braun, Norman Brown, Richard Elliot, Euge Groove, Earl Klugh, Kenny Lattimore, party band DW3 and music director Brian Simpson. When the live music pauses, legendary MC Biz Markie and Cool V will DJ to keep The Greatest Party at Sea grooving on the dance floor, and comedian Alonzo Bodden will provide the laughter.

Here are ten reasons why the West Coast Party at Sea is different than previous sailings of The Smooth Jazz Cruise:

· Wall to wall live music. The usual program offers 40 shows. 60 concerts will be staged on the October cruise.

· Guests will have the once in a lifetime opportunity to take a one-hour music lesson from the stars with the fee going to charity.

· At a first-ever songwriting seminar, Culbertson and the band will compose a new song on the spot with direct input from the audience.

· During the “Opening Act” talent contest where guests get to show off their own musical gifts, cruisers will judge the opening rounds of the competition with Culbertson, James and Dulfer ultimately determining the winner who will earn the privilege of opening for the headliner and perform with the cruise hosts on the final night of the voyage.

· When in Puerto Vallarta, guests will enjoy artist hosted excursions such as play golf with Braun, ride horseback with Elliot, sightsee with Culbertson, participate at an outdoor challenge with Butler, explore hideaways with Simpson, or join Dulfer for a swim with dolphins.

· While at sea, cruisers can battle Culbertson and James in a ping pong tournament, take a yoga class with Klugh or shoot hoop with Miller.

· For the romantically inclined, couples can renew their wedding vows during a ceremony presided over by Butler.

· On a theme night designated to support Pinktober, national breast cancer awareness month, guests are encouraged to wear pink. Each cruiser will be given a commemorative pin and when they give the card accompanying the pin to the front desk, they will be making a $5.00 donation to fight breast cancer with cruise producer Entertainment Cruise Productions donating matching funds.

· “Backstage Pass” will be filmed nightly aboard the ship in front of a live audience for national television broadcast. Host Dane Butcher will interview each of the cruise stars.

· For the first time, premium reserved seats for the main shows in the Vista Lounge theater are available for all guests who book their cabins by July 31.

Butcher, the Director of Cruise Operations & Programming for Entertainment Cruise Productions, said,

“We are super excited for the West Coast Jazz Party at Sea because this itinerary has allowed us to program the cruise THE perfect way. With more than 60 shows onboard, we added a bunch of brand new activities that make the guests just as much a part of the cruise as the musicians. Visiting Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta provide fantastic shore excursions, beautiful beaches, great shopping and amazing food along with fabulous weather and smooth sailing. We are not only bringing in celebrity DJ Biz Markie and his sidekick Cool V, who are a perfect match for this party crowd, but we added more artists than ever before and have surprises planned that are guaranteed to make this one of the greatest cruises that we have ever produced.”

Guests have fallen in love with The Smooth Jazz Cruise ever since its maiden voyage in 2004. Much more than a jazz festival and much more than a vacation, cruisers spend an entire week completely immersed in the music. On top of the stellar concert performances with Dream Team pairings that take place nightly in the theater and in more intimate nightclub venues aboard the vessel, guests interact daily with the musicians at cocktail parties, poolside games and activities, informative seminars, autograph sessions and cooking demonstrations. It’s an unforgettable first-class lifestyle experience that keeps fans coming back year after year. Cabins for the October sailing are still available and can be reserved by calling toll-free 888.852.9987 in the U.S. & Canada and +800.852.99872 internationally. For more information, please visit http://www.thesmoothjazzcruise.com.

About Entertainment Cruise Productions, LLC

The world leader in full ship charter music cruises, St. Louis, Missouri-based Entertainment Cruise Productions, LLC (ECP) owns, produces and promotes The Smooth Jazz Cruise and The Jazz Cruise (www.thejazzcruise.com), and is proud to partner with Time Life for the Soul Train Cruise (www.soultraincruise.com), Malt Shop Memories Cruise (www.maltshopcruise.com), The Country Music Cruise. (www.countrymusiccruise.com) and Celtic Thunder Cruise (www.celticthundercruise.com). Pleasing guests is Entertainment Cruise Productions’ most important goal and objective while providing luxurious vacation experiences featuring marquee stars from their respective music genres in an extraordinary setting for devoted passengers, many of whom make the fun and exciting cruises an annual affair. Additional information is available at http://www.ecpcruises.com.

One on One with Brian Culbertson

I’m thrilled to share with you an interview I had with the one and only Brain Culbertson. I’m a “HUGE” fan, so that made it even more of an honor for me. He was very gracious to take the time out of his busy schedule. He shared with me his concept behind the 2nd Annual Napa Valley Getaway that he hosts. He gave me some insight on how his CD “Dreams” evolved, and talked about his collaborations with a few of the finest vocalists and musicians. We also shared our admiration for the legendary David Sanborn, and how he influenced us both at an early age.

Brian loves playing in Charlotte, NC, and is looking forward to performing at the Uptown Jazzfest on Friday June 21st.

Click below to hear our interview.

The man himself....Brian Culbertson

The man himself….Brian Culbertson

Brian's band

Brian’s band

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