Najee - Mind Over Matter (Advance Review) (2009)

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Crisp, contemporary jazz with an urbanized twist, executed with an airy, improvisational feel. Few musicians can pull that off successfully, but then again, most musicians don't have the talent and expertise of Najee. Over the last two decades, the native New Yorker has applied his multi-instrumental prowess (flute, keyboards, and of course, the sax) to gold and platinum-selling CDs, superstar tours (Prince, Chaka Khan) and collaborations with the likes of Will Downing, Jeffrey Osborne, Marcus Miller and George Duke.  And now, two years after his number one 2007 release, Rising Sun, Najee returns to the scene with Mind Over Matter, which is more fun and freestyled than the title suggests.

Crisp, contemporary jazz with an urbanized twist, executed with an airy, improvisational feel. Few musicians can pull that off successfully, but then again, most musicians don't have the talent and expertise of Najee. Over the last two decades, the native New Yorker has applied his multi-instrumental prowess (flute, keyboards, and of course, the sax) to gold and platinum-selling CDs, superstar tours (Prince, Chaka Khan) and collaborations with the likes of Will Downing, Jeffrey Osborne, Marcus Miller and George Duke.  And now, two years after his number one 2007 release, Rising Sun, Najee returns to the scene with Mind Over Matter, which is more fun and freestyled than the title suggests.

 Najee is one of the few who can serve it up traditionally as well as with soulful and funkdified flourishes; the opening track, "Love You a Lifetime," brims with infectious optimism, while "Stolen Glances" personifies all of the bubbly energy that first-time flirtation can bring.  Twinkling eyes and starry nights come to mind with "Love Forever and a Day After," and "One More Thing," though sax-laden, is flush with swerve and attitude.  

Thanks to its supple slow grooves and mesmerizing mid-tempos, Mind Over Matter didn't really need any extra collaborations, but the additions of Jeff Lorber, Eric Benet and Gary Taylor certainly don't hurt either: "We Gone Ride" is an instant finger-snapping favorite, with Mr. Benet convincing a long-ago love to remember the good times long enough to ride shotgun with him down Memory Lane: "We probably shouldn't but I couldn't let the chance just pass me by: I got my girl, you got your man and they wouldn't understand this nostalgic high." As for Mr. Taylor, his soothing tenor adds color and depth to the images conjured by the smoky track, which leisurely unfurls as Najee's notes flutter about like a moth courting a flame.

Mind Over Matter does become a bit staid toward the middle with "The Journey," but Najee intertwines enough vigor and vivaciousness throughout for listeners to overlook that momentary lapse. So, in the end, whether you're a waaaaaay-back-in-the-day-since-Najee's Theme fan or not, this jazz master's latest is sure to delight, not disappoint.

By Melody Charles

 
Choice Cut - Maysa - "Lovin' You Is Easy"

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