#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.”

Saxophonist Elan Trotman has “Got To Give It Up” to Marvin Gaye

Elan Trotman

Saxophonist Elan Trotman has “Got To Give It Up” to Marvin Gaye

He drops a tribute album, “Dear Marvin,” on April 2, the iconic crooner’s 80th birthday. The first single, “Got To Give It Up,” is the No. 1 most-added single on the Billboard chart this week.

BOSTON (20 March 2019): Sax salutes sexy soul on Elan Trotman’s “Dear Marvin,” a collection of ten of Marvin Gaye’s best-loved songs that drops on April 2, the late legendary R&B singer’s 80th birthday. Preceding the set’s arrival is the single “Got To Give It Up,” a vibrant reboot of one of Gaye’s funky dance tracks that is the No. 1 most-added single on the Billboard chart this week as an instrumental from the Woodward Avenue Records album produced by Charles Haynes (Marcus Miller, Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah) and Trotman.

“It’s amazing how this project came about. ‘Got To Give It Up’ has been a huge part of my live show for the past two years and has always been a crowd favorite. That is just one of the many factors that inspired me to record the song and to dig deeper into Marvin’s catalogue and life story. I had no idea that his 80th birthday would be coming up around our time of completing the album, but once I found out, I knew we had to release it on April 2 to mark the occasion,” said Trotman, an award-winning saxophonist who has topped the Billboard singles chart more than ten times.

In reimagining Gaye’s catalogue in instrumental form, Trotman shares the spotlight on “Dear Marvin,” with premier soloists, including Grammy-winning keyboardist Jeff Lorber, seminal urban-jazz flautist Najee, esteemed trumpeter Patches Stewart, soul-jazz-hip hop-funk trombonist Jeff Bradshaw and veteran guitarist Sherrod Barnes. Trotman strategically deploys vocals to illumine a few key tracks. Ray Greene (Santana, Tower of Power) begs on “Mercy Mercy Me”; rapper Obadele Thompson plies his come-on skills to “I Want You”; and Tim “Smithsoneon” Smith provides the cure through “Sexual Healing.” Members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra enhance a pair of tracks with strings. Including Haynes, Trotman’s core collaborators are his former colleagues from Berklee College of Music: keyboardist Mitch Henry (Marsha Ambrosius), bassists Kyle Miles and Keithen Foster (H.E.R.), and percussionist Atticus Cole.

“It’s been an honor to be able to share my interpretations of some of Marvin’s classics. As with all cover projects, I made an extra effort to learn lyrics and storylines for each composition in order to truly understand his interpretations and performances on each song,” said the Boston-based Trotman, who is planning to be in Los Angeles on April 2 for an 11am ceremony held by the United States Postal Service at The Greek Theatre to celebrate the release of the Marvin Gaye commemorative Forever stamp.

“We, Marvin’s family, heard about Elan doing a musical tribute to Marvin. We are very pleased with his album ‘Dear Marvin,’ and are so happy that it will be released on his birthday, April 2. The musicians are all incredible! Thank you, Elan Trotman. Job well done,” said Janis Gaye, Gaye’s second wife.

“Dear Marvin,” is Trotman’s eighth album and second on the Woodward Avenue Records imprint. The label issued the saxophone-flute player’s 2013 disc, “Tropicality,” an autobiographical album that colors contemporary jazz with native sounds from Trotman’s homeland, Barbados. Trotman curates, produces and hosts the Barbados Jazz Excursion and Golf Weekend annually over Columbus Day Weekend with the sixth edition taking place this October 10-14. Bringing that winning formula closer to home, he will launch the first annual Martha’s Vineyard Jazz Excursion and Golf Weekend in Oak Bluffs, MA on June 28-30. To support the album release, Trotman will perform at festivals, theaters and nightclubs through October beginning with the prestigious Boscov’s Berks Jazz Festival in Reading, PA on April 5.

“Dear Marvin,” contains the following songs:

“Inner City Blues” featuring Sherrod Barnes

“Got To Give It Up”

“Distant Lover” featuring Patches Stewart

“Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”

“Mercy Mercy Me” featuring Ray Greene

“I Want You” featuring Obadele Thompson

“Sexual Healing” featuring “Smithsoneon”

“After The Dance” featuring Najee

“Trouble Man” featuring Jeff Lorber

“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” featuring Jeff Bradshaw

For more information, please visit http://elantrotman.com.

“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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Blake Aaron spins soulful guitar tales on “Soul Stories,” coming May 5‏

Blake Aaron

 

Blake Aaron spins soulful guitar tales on “Soul Stories,” coming May 5

 

“Wes Side Story” bodes to be the fourth single from the set to enter the Billboard Top 10.

 

Aliso Viejo, Calif. (16 March 2014): Guitarist Blake Aaron utilized an unconventional approach when constructing his fifth album, “Soul Stories,” which will be released May 5 by Innervision Records. To maintain his presence on radio and in the marketplace while juggling a busy schedule as a first-call session player, featured sideman and in-demand producer, he issued a variety of singles with three cuts – the retro funk-disco energizer “Groove-O-Matic,” the urbane romantic duet with jazz crooner Spencer Day entitled “You’re the One for Me” and the salsa-singed “Encantadora” featuring Najee on flute – entering the Billboard Top 10. The ten-track “Soul Stories,” Aaron’s first collection that is entirely self-produced, contains eight original tunes authored by the artist.

Saluting one of his hallmark influences, Aaron embodies seminal jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery on the aptly-titled “Wes Side Story,” an evocative selection that will be serviced to radio stations for playlist adds beginning April 6.

Weaving engaging narratives told through a triad of guitar voices, Aaron’s “Soul Stories” unfolds amidst a varied backdrop of contemporary jazz, R&B, Latin and funk settings. He approaches his compositions as a storyteller and elects to feature a different guitar – cool jazz electric, gentle acoustic or emotional nylon string – as the protagonist of each musical vignette. Often Aaron provides a counterpoint by waging an expressive discourse using interpretive play between multiple guitars on the same song. Whether emoting on brisk radio-friendly jaunts or taking his time to elaborate on expansive improvised jams, Aaron’s inspired fret work is crisp, clear, lyrical and skillfully performed with passion and precision.

“As with my live performances, I like to make all of my records as if they are movies with all the emotional ups and downs, as if I am taking the listener through a story or a musical landscape. On ‘Soul Stories,’ I wanted to try to tell compelling musical stories – some with words, but most without. Many artists like to focus on one trademark sound, but I prefer using different modes of expression because that’s really who I am. It keeps the albums fresh and allows for more spontaneity onstage,” said Aaron who recently previewed the album at a sold-out gig at Spaghettini south of Los Angeles. “It’s the most expressive album I’ve ever made as an artist representing the many different facets of the music I love and who I am creatively. There’s literally every part of me on this CD – my heart, blood and sweat. It’s all on this record.”

The musicians who helped Aaron illustrate “Soul Stories” were vocalist Derek Bordeaux, keyboardists Tom Zink, Rob Mullins and Lew Laing; bassists Hussain Jiffry and Melvin Davis; strings arranger and keyboardist Mike Whittaker; strings arranger and label mate Craig Sharmat; percussionist Ronnie Gutierrez, and drummers Ricky Lawson and Winston Butts.

Another creative outlet occupying Aaron’s time is his weekly “Blake Aaron Live with Tina Anderson,” a nationally-syndicated radio show airing in markets including California, New York, Florida, Arizona and on Urban Soul Radio. Over the years, Aaron has hosted, interviewed and played with a galaxy of the brightest stars in contemporary jazz, adult contemporary and pop on the radio program. The Southern California-based recording artist debuted with 2002’s “With Every Touch” that offers collaborations with David Benoit and Eric Marienthal. Subsequent releases – “Bringin’ It Back,” “Desire” and “A Romantic Christmas” – garnered airplay and chart action while frequent appearances on the concert circuit enhanced his national profile. In other media, Aaron held a 14-year-stint as the guitarist and theme song co-composer for “MAD TV” along with more than a dozen films and television series the likes of which include “The Ben Stiller Show,” “Super Dave Osborne” and “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment.” For more information, please visit www.BlakeAaron.com.

“Soul Stories” is comprised of the following songs:

“Groove-O-Matic”

“Wes Side Story”

“Sol Amor”

“Europa”

“You’re the One for Me”

“Story of the Blues”

“Sara Smile”

“Story of My Life”

“You’re My Miracle”

“Encantadora”

BRIAN SIMPSON STRAIGHT “OUT OF A DREAM”

Brian Simpson knows quite a bit about making hits. After all, he has had a few of them since his solo career began in 2005. He has been and continues to be the guy that his fellow musicians call upon when it comes to producing. Brian’s belief is that “the melody is still king.” To go along with that, he also remembers what a teacher once told him he should always remember: “unity, variety, and continuity.” While it may have been unbeknownst to him at the time, those three vital components would later become very clear. While embarking upon the creation of his latest album, “Out Of A Dream,” Brian embraced the idea of variety and enlisted a host of co-composers. “Out Of A Dream” could be viewed as an album of duets. Simpson features the superb saxophone skills of Grace Kelly and the flute of Najee on the title track, “Out Of A Dream.” Brian’s collaboration with longtime friend Dave Koz exhibits why the two have such a successful working relationship. Keeping variety front and center, Simpson’s first single, “Sky Watcher,” was co-written by Ryan Farish–who only does electronic music. Furthermore, being an international traveler, Brian takes his listeners on a global journey from Spain to Brazil through songs featuring Marc Antoine and Maysa. And as a tribute to Joe Sample, Simpson penned “Lets Get Away” with Oliver Wendell. Other collaborators include Jonathan Fritzen, Maurice Brown, and Norman Brown.

Brian and I discuss the importance of variety and the creation of “Out Of A Dream”:

Brian Simpson

MARION MEADOWS: THE “SOUL TRAVELER”

Marion Meadows is eclectic. In his own words, “he’s always been a Gypsy and a daredevil.” His latest album, “Soul Traveler,” is truly symbolic as the soundtrack to his life. Meadows worked with Carlo Pennisi to write all original songs–albeit, with a little resistance. Although thinking outside the box is how Marion usually operates, it took a little more urging on behalf of Pennisi to bring “Soul Traveler” into existence. He describes the evolution of “Soul Traveler” much like a blooming flower. Meadows amorously says that “he loves the people he works with.” Graciously, he was joined by longtime friend and fellow saxophonist, Najee, Elan Trotman, Vincent Ingala, Juan Benevides, Phil MacArthur, Joey Sommerville, Kyle Turner, Ragan Whiteside, Toni Bias, and Lamar Gaines. Unwittingly, unknowingly, and with all of himself, Marion created a record that his fans will relish.

Listen as Marion and I talk all things “Soul Traveler”:

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PHIL PERRY CELEBRATES 45 YEARS IN MUSIC

The unmistakable voice of Phil Perry has graced us for over four decades. For generations upon generations who have loved his music, it is a gift to still have him sharing his talents with us. Although it has been 45 years for Phil in the music industry, it doesn’t feel like it has been that long to him. He is honored, fortunate, and humbled to have earned the respect of his peers for all these years. Perry has prided himself on his professionalism and feels that it has been a sustaining quality throughout the years. He is critical of himself when it comes to writing, yet he is led to write. His latest album, “Say Yes,” features some original tunes and some covers. The covers–although recognizable–are not the same. They have Phil Perry all over them. The album spent weeks on the smooth jazz charts as Top Vocal and Top 10. He collaborated with Chante Moore on the song “Where Is The Love,” and it has spent weeks as Billboards’ Top Smooth Jazz Vocal. Phil enjoys performing and always delivers more live than you can hear from simply pushing play. His success can be attributed to the fact that he is grateful for every chance he has to make music because it makes him a better singer each time. In addition, he attempts to leave himself in what he is doing, and that creates an emotional connection between him and his audience. Perry’s advice to anyone who wants to be in the business is to “make sure you love it, and love it to the degree that you’re willing to suffer for it. Because without suffering, there’s no growth.” I personally couldn’t agree more and have been profoundly inspired by his wisdom and willingness to share it.

From the porch of his home in California on a picture perfect day, Phil shares his story with me:

Phil Perry "Say Yes"

Phil Perry “Say Yes”