To stand apart and say you have your own voice is more important to me than being the player with the greatest chops. I feel I've been very fortunate to have grown as a musician, and to have made a statement that people can recognize and that I can say is my own."
The magical melodies and passionate phrasings that introduced a generation of music lovers to the distinct sound of the phenomenal reedsmith Najee, will once again serenade listeners with his latest offering, Morning Tenderness, for Verve Forecast. A musical masterpiece of smooth and sensuous selections, Morning Tenderness marks a triumphant return for the best selling instrumentalist to the contemporary jazz musical forefront. "To me, this album is a return to my audience," Najee exclaims. "My last record, musically, was a departure for me. This is a return to traditional Najee."
Traditional Najee, as displayed on Morning Tenderness, embodies the musical landscape and showcases the pure artistry that established Najee at the top of the new adult contemporary, R&B, and jazz marketplaces over the past twelve years. With his career already filled with distinguished achievements, Najee again takes center stage with a remarkable collection of nine original compositions and one remarkable cover. "I think more than anything, Morning Tenderness is really me. I went through a lot of personal experiences over the last three years and have become more introspective with my writing." A truely personal statement, Morning Tenderness touches upon everything from love to the familiar aspects of daily life.
The album was recorded over an eight month period at both the Ney York and Los Angeles recording studios of Najee and his younger brother and lifelong collaborator Fareed. The ten gorgeous tracks featured on the production are a representation of a man who is in love with life and music. Opening the collection are the sparkling voices of Najee's young sons providing a heartfelt introduction to the song, "Not a Day Goes By". Najee reflects, "It's a song that says to my children, 'Not a day goes by that I'm not thinking about you, or that you're not in my heart'."
Taking a popular R&B slow jam and making it his own has long been one of Najee's signatures. This time around, Najee gives Joe's "All the Things" just the touch of silky soul it deserves. Najee's instrumentalization of this sexy clasic brings it to a class all it's own. "I've always liked that song and the way Joe sang it," Najee says. "No one had covered it instrumentally, and it was a song that I found challenging to play and make my own."
With "Morning Tenderness", Najee got some help from Fareed naming what would become the title track. Reflects Najee, "I came up with that song along with a friend of mine named Nick Smith, and I kept hearing 'Morning Drive' or 'Morning something' in my head, and my brother said, 'Why don't we call it "Morning Tenderness"?' And I thought about it. The song represents just waking up in the morning with the sun rising, and being refreshed. That's what I want people to think of when they hear the album. I play mostly flute on that particular song and I think it stands apart from all the rest. It's definitive."
Also joining Najee on Morning Tenderness are a host of veteran and up-and-comming talents, including Motown recording diva Miss Jones, acclaimed vocalist Audrey Wheeler, and new discovery Ty Causey. On the easy-flowing and enchanting "Indian Summer", Regis Bransen's richly textured vocals float on Najee's bed of reed playing. Najee also co-produced the entire collection, in addition to composing most of the album.
Morning Tenderness is Najee's seventh musical offering and follows a slew of critically acclaimed, top selling records including his 1987 debut, Najee's Theme, and most recently, the critically acclaimed Stevie Wonder tribute, Songs in the Key of Life, produced by jazz luminary George Duke. Over the past ten years, Najee's formidable tallents have afforded him the opportunity to work with an array of musical tallents, including Quincey Jones, Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau, Freddie Jackson, Jonathan Butler, Stanley Clarke, Paul Jackson, Jr., Phyllis Hyman, Patti LaBelle, The O'Jays, Big Daddy Kane, Bobby Caldwell, and many others.
Raised in the Jamaica section of Queens, Ney York, Najee first began playing as a teenager. "Queens is what probably gave me my life-career, what planted the seed," Najee reflects. "Growing up in this area, there were so many bands with kids who wanted to play music for a living. It was an important part of the community. I think my biggest education came from growing up in that environment."
Najee's new association with Verve Records represents the accomplishment of his longtime goal to release records on his own label. His unique deal marks the formation ot the FAN (Fareed And Najee) Entertainment Group, owned and operated by Najee, Fareed, and manager Barrett LaRoda. States Najee, "We've always wanted the opportunity to utilize my strength in the marketplace to sign new acts and build careers for other new talent. This isn't something we just woke up one day and did - it's the realization of a twenty year dream for us."
Of his newly formed relationship with Verve, Najee states, "Being with Verve has been a great experience for me because theyve been so supportive of what I'm doing." And what Najee has done is create a record that will not only thrill his loyal fans, but also captivate a new generation of listeners with his gorgeous soprano sound and incomparable expressiveness. Morning Tenderness presents Najee at the peak of his soulful musicianship and compositional skills, providing listeners with the most personal glimpse of his most distinct musical personality to date. "Playing and writing music has always been my emotional release," Najee says, "That's the way I give my heart to the people."